Do you blank out on exams? Improve school performance with breathing* **

lec03a-breathing-part-1-intro“I opened the exam booklet and I went blank.”

“When I got anxious, I took a slow breath, reminded myself that I would remember the material. I successfully passed the exam.”

“I was shocked, when I gasped, I could not remember my girlfriend’s name and then I could not remember my mother’s name. When breathed slowly, I had no problem and easily remembered both”

Blanking out the memorized information that you have studied on an exam is a common experiences of students even if they worked hard (Arnsten, Mazure, & Sinha, 2012).    Fear and poor study habits often contribute to forgetting the material (Fitkov-Norris, & Yeghiazarian, 2013). Most students study while listening to music, responding to text message, or monitoring social network sites such as, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest (David et al., 2015).. Other students study the material for one class then immediately shift and study material from another class. While at home they study while sitting or lying on their bed. Numerous students have internalized the cultural or familial beliefs that math is difficult and you do not have the aptitude for the material—your mother and father were also poor in math (Cherif, Movahedzadeh, Adams, & Dunning, 2013). These beliefs and dysfunctional study habits limit learning (Neal, Wood, & Drolet, 2013).

Blanking out on an exam or class presentation is usually caused by fear or performance anxiety which triggers a stress response (Hodges, 2015; Spielberger, Anton, & Bedell, 2015). At that moment, the brain is flooded with thoughts such as, I can’t do it,”  “I will fail,” “I used to know this, but…”, or “What will people think?” The body responds with a defense reaction as if you are being threatened and your survival is at stake.  The emotional reactivity and anxiety overwhelms cognition, resulting in an automatic ‘freeze’ response of breath holding or very shallow breathing. At that moment, you blank out (Hagenaars, Oitzl, & Roelofs, 2014; Sink et al., 2013; Von Der Embse, Barterian, & Segool, 2013).

Experience how your thinking is affected by your breathing pattern.  Do the following practice with another person.

Have the person ask you a question and the moment you hear the beginning of the question, gasp as if you are shocked or surprised.  React just as quickly and automatically as you would if you see a car speeding towards you.  At that moment of shock or surprise, you do not think, you don’t spend time identifying the car or look at who is driving. You reflexively and automatically jump out of the way. Similarly in this exercise, when you are asked to answer a question, act as if you are as shocked or surprised to see a car racing towards you.

Practice gasping at the onset of hearing the beginning of a question such as,  “What day was it yesterday?” At the onset of the sound, gasp as if startled or afraid. During the first few practices, many people wait until they have heard the whole phrase before gasping.  This would be similar to seeing a car racing towards you and first thinking about the car, at that point you would be hit. Repeat this a few times till it is automatic.

Now change the breathing pattern from gasping to slow breathing and practice this for a few times.

When you hear the beginning of the question breathe slowly and then exhale.” Inhale slowly for about 4 seconds while allowing your abdomen to expand and then exhale softly for about 5 or six seconds.  Repeat practicing slow breathing in response to hearing the onset of the question until it is automatic.

Now repeat the two breathing patterns (gasping and slow breathing) while the person asks you a subtraction or math questions such as, “Subtract 7 from 93.” 

In research with more than 100 college students, we found that students had significantly more self-reported anxiety and difficulty in solving math problems when gasping as compared to slow breathing as shown Figure 1 (Lee et al, 2016).

math-and-anxiety-gasping-db

Fig 1. The effect of breathing style on math performance.  Diaphragmatic breathing significantly increased math performance and decreased anxiety (from: Lee, S., Sanchez, J., Peper, E., & Harvey, R., 2016).

As one 20 year old college student said, “When I gasped, my mind went blank and I could not do the subtraction. When I breathed slowly, I had no problem doing the subtractions. I never realized that breathing had such a big effect upon my performance.”

When you are stressed and blank out, take a slow diaphragmatic breath to improve performance; however, it is only effective if you have previously studied the materials effectively. To improve effective learning incorporate the following concepts when studying.

  1. Approached learning with a question. When you begin to study the material or attend a class, ask yourself a question that you would like to be answered.  When you have a purpose, it is easier to stay emotionally present and remember the material (Osman, & Hannafin, 1994).
  2. Process what you are learning with as many sensory cues as possible. Take hand written notes when reading the text or listening to your teacher. Afterwards meet with your friends in person, on Skype and again discuss and review the materials.  As you discuss the materials, add comments to your notes.  Do not take notes on your computer because people can often type almost as quickly as someone speaks. The computer notes are much less processed and are similar to the experience of a court or medical transcriptionist where the information flows from the ears to the fingers without staying in between.  College students who take notes in class on a computer or tablets perform worse on exams than students who write notes. When you write your notes you have to process the material and extract and synthesis relevant concepts.
  3. Review the notes and material before going to sleep. Research has demonstrated that whatever material is in temporary memory before going to sleep will be more likely be stored in long term memory (Gais et al., 2006; Diekelmann et al., 2009).  When you study material is stored in temporary memory, and then when you study something else, the first material tends to displaced by the more recent material. The last studied material is more likely stored in long term memory. When you watch a movie after studying, the movie content is preferentially stored in permanent memory during sleep. In addition, what is emotionally most important to you is usually stored first. Thus, instead of watching movies and chatting on social media, discuss and review the materials just before you go to sleep.
  4. Learning is state dependent. Study and review the materials under similar conditions as you will be tested.  Without awareness the learned content is covertly associated with environmental, emotional, social and kinesthetic cues.  Thus when you study in bed, the material is most easily accessed while lying down. When you study with music, the music become retrieval trigger.  Without awareness the materials are encoded with the cues of lying down or the music played in the background.  When you come to the exam room, none of those cues are there, thus it is more difficult to recall the material (Eich, 2014).
  5. Avoid interruptions. When studying each time you become distracted by answering a text message or responding to social media, your concentration is disrupted (Swingle, 2016). Imagine that learning is like scuba diving and the learning occurs mainly at the bottom. Each interruption forces you to go to the surface and it takes time to dive down again. Thus you learn much less than if you stayed at the bottom for the whole time period.
  6. Develop study rituals.  Incorporate a ritual before beginning studying and repeat it during studying such as three slow breaths.  The ritual can become the structure cue associated with the learned material. When you come to exam and you do not remember or are anxious, perform the same ritual which will allow easier access to the memory.
  7. Change your internal language. What we overtly or covertly say and believe is what we become. When you say, “I am stupid”, “I can’t do math,” or “It is too difficult to learn,” you become powerless which increases your stress and inhibits cognitive function.  Instead, change your internal language so that it implies that you can master the materials such as, “I need more time to study and to practice the material,”  “Learning just takes time and at this moment it may take a bit longer than for someone else,” or “I need a better tutor,”

When you take charge of your study habits and practice slower breathing during studying and test taking, you may experience a significant improvement in learning, remembering, accessing, and processing information.

References

Arnsten, A., Mazure, C. M., & Sinha, R. (2012). This is your brain in meltdown. Scientific American, 306(4), 48-53.

Cherif, A. H., Movahedzadeh, F., Adams, G. E., & Dunning, J. (2013). Why Do Students Fail?. Higher Learning, 227, 228.

David, P., Kim, J. H., Brickman, J. S., Ran, W., & Curtis, C. M. (2015). Mobile phone distraction while studying. new media & society, 17(10), 1661-1679.

Diekelmann, S., Wilhelm, I., & Born, J. (2009). The whats and whens of sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Sleep medicine reviews13(5), 309-321.

Eich, J. E. (2014). State-dependent retrieval of information in human episodic memory. Alcohol and Human Memory (PLE: Memory)2, 141.

Fitkov-Norris, E. D., & Yeghiazarian, A. (2013). Measuring study habits in higher education: the way forward?. In Journal of Physics: Conference Series (Vol. 459, No. 1, p. 012022). IOP Publishing.

Gais, S., Lucas, B., & Born, J. (2006). Sleep after learning aids memory recall. Learning & Memory13(3), 259-262.

Hagenaars, M. A., Oitzl, M., & Roelofs, K. (2014). Updating freeze: aligning animal and human research. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 47, 165-176.

Hodges, W. F. (2015). The psychophysiology of anxiety. Emotions and Anxiety (PLE: Emotion): New Concepts, Methods, and Applications, 12, 175.

Lee, S., Sanchez, J., Peper, E., & Harvey, R. (2016). Effect of Breathing Style on Math Problem Solving. Presented at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Seattle WA, March 9-12, 2016

Neal, D. T., Wood, W., & Drolet, A. (2013). How do people adhere to goals when willpower is low? The profits (and pitfalls) of strong habits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(6), 959.

Osman, M. E., & Hannafin, M. J. (1994). Effects of advance questioning and prior knowledge on science learning. The Journal of Educational Research,88(1), 5-13.

Spielberger, C. D., Anton, W. D., & Bedell, J. (2015). The nature and treatment of test anxiety. Emotions and anxiety: New concepts, methods, and applications, 317-344.

Sink, K. S., Walker, D. L., Freeman, S. M., Flandreau, E. I., Ressler, K. J., & Davis, M. (2013). Effects of continuously enhanced corticotropin releasing factor expression within the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis on conditioned and unconditioned anxiety. Molecular psychiatry, 18(3), 308-319.

Swingle, M. (2016). i-Minds: How cell phones, computers, gaming and social media are changing our brains, our behavior, and the evolution of our species. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.

Von Der Embse, N., Barterian, J., & Segool, N. (2013). Test anxiety interventions for children and adolescents: A systematic review of treatment studies from 2000–2010. Psychology in the Schools, 50(1), 57-71.

*I thank Richard Harvey, PhD. for his constructive feedback and comments and Shannon Lee for her superb research.

** This blog was adapted from: Lee, S., Sanchez, J., Peper, E., & Harvey, R. (2016). Effect of Breathing Style on Math Problem Solving. Presented at the 47th Annual Meeting of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, Seattle WA, March 9-12, 2016


Evolutionary approach to return to health

Many  illness may be prevented or reversed when we life in harmony with our evolutionary origins such as diet, movement, and circadian rhythm. The focus is to teach skills and not pills; since, many medications have long term negative side affects. By applying behavioral life style changes that supports our evolutionary patterns, we may be able to prevent or even reverse numerous illnesses such as epilepsy, eczema, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, allergies, ADHD, depression, anxiety,  cancer, stress related symptoms.

Enjoy the wide ranging lecture presented at the 2012 meeting of the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research.


A token raise for some JPMorgan Chase employees: Jamie Dimon earns more in three hours that what his employees earn in a whole year

“How can you live with yourself, Jami Dimon, when you earn more  in  three hours work than what your employees earn in a whole year?”

Presentation1From: http://www.123rf.com/stock-photo/poverty.html?mediapopup=17337014

Today in a remarkable New York Times op-ed, “Why We’re Giving Our Employees a Raise,” by Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, appeared to address the economic inequality. As stated in the op-ed, “Over the next three years, we will raise the minimum pay for 18,000 employees to between $12 and $16.50 an hour for full-time, part-time and new employees, depending on geographic and market factors.

A pay increase is the right thing to do. Wages for many Americans have gone nowhere for too long. Many employees who will receive this increase work as bank tellers and customer service representatives. Above all, it enables more people to begin to share in the rewards of economic growth.”

These words seem to announce a new corporate responsibility and that Wall Street and that the upper 1% have finally recognized that the other 99% are suffering. The facts are different when looking at the actual data. The salary for these  18,000 employees will increase from $10.15 to between $12 and $16.50 an hour, an average increase of 40% to $14.25 per hour over a three year period. Each of these employee works an average of 30 hours a week and their annual salary–assuming that they work 52 weeks a year–will increase from $15,834 to $22,230.  This looks like a great raise; however, it does not even cover the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in San Francisco at $3500 per month ($42,000 per year) or in New York at $2700 per month ($32,400 per year).  Although it will cover the rent for a one bedroom apartment in Chicago at $1757 per month ($21,084 per year). It would leave $146 for all other expenses incurred during the year.

Although 18,000 employees is a large number, it is  only a small percentage of the bank’s 235,000 employees.  Do most of the others employees continue to work for poverty wages?

The actual cost to JPMorgan and Chase for this gracious socially responsible raise is slightly more than 115 million dollars ($115,128,000) per year). It will reduce JPMorgan and Chase 24.44 billion dollar profit for 2015 by less than 0.5%.  Yes, you read it correctly, the profit last year was 24.4 billion dollars.

All of a sudden, it is not such a generous offer especially since Jamie Dimon received a 35% raise this year–an increase from $20 million to $27 million dollars. This means his annual pay is more than 1200 times that of these lucky employees who will receive a raise. This means he earns in less than three hours what these employee slave for  during the whole year. That is obscene!

Thus, do not be taken in by Jamie Dimon’s caring and humanistic op-ed.  See it as it is, a self-serving corporate gesture that obscures the actual transfer of wealth from the employees to the top 1%.


Watch “Wi-fried” and implement the precautionary principle*

CellRadiation

From: https://16164-presscdn-0-13-pagely.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/CellRadiation.png

From: http://media.portland.indymedia.org/images/2012/03/414397.jpg

The exponential increase in environmental exposure to electromagnetic radiation (microwaves) from wireless devices and Wi-Fi (e.g., routers, smartphones, tablets and any device that uses wireless connections) will probably cause harm. From an evolutionary perspective, this is the first time in human history that we are continuously  bombarded by massive increases in microwave radiation–a totally new experience for our body. It is not be surprising that wireless radiation could increase the risk of cancer (Davis, 2010; Knudson, 2016). Why wait 30 plus years until the definitive studies have been completed. Use the precautionary principle and assume that microwave radiation is harmful until proven otherwise.

Watch the superb Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) program. “Wi-Fried,” by  Dr. Maryanne Demasi, the presenter and producer of this documentary who investigated whether wireless devices and Wi-Fi could be harmful to health. She has a doctorate in medical research and worked for a decade as a researcher at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.  Instead of being applauded for her courage in airing this controversial issue, she was suspended from on-air broadcasts and the program was removed from the ABC website.

This action to stifle debate appears to be a repeat of the tobacco industry techniques  smear campaign which began in the 1950s. At that time the tobacco industry claimed there was not enough evidence to show that smoking was a risk factor for health (Brandt, 2012). To protect tobacco’s profits, the industry supported many researchers and journalists to disparage and discredit ethical scientists and journalists who researched and reported on the health risks of smoking. Make up your own mind and watch the unofficial version of the now deleted 29-minute documentary,”Wi-Fried,” It has been posted on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/155864822).

References

Brandt, A. M. (2012). Inventing conflicts of interest: a history of tobacco industry tactics. American journal of public health, 102(1), 63-71.

Davis, D. (2010). Disconnect: The truth about cell phone radiation, what the industry is doing to hide it, and how to protect your family. Penguin.

Knutson, R. (2016). Debate Rekindled Over Health Risks From Cellphone Use, Wall Street Journal. July 6, 2016.  http://www.wsj.com/articles/debate-renews-over-health-risks-from-cellphone-use-1467829289?mg=id-wsj

*I thank Dr. Joel Joel M. Moskowitz for sharing this information. Website:               http://www.saferemr.com    Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SaferEMR
News Releases: http://pressroom.prlog.org/jmm716/   Twitter: @berkeleyprc

 


Are LED screens harming you?

cartoon eyes open

Sleep has become more and more elusive since checking my cellphone in bed.

Ouch, my eyes hurt when I flipped the light switch on and the room was flooded with light.

After working on my computer screen, the world looked blurry.

At night, the intense blue white LED headlights blinded me unlike the normal incandescent headlights. 

My eyes become irritated and dry after looking at the computer screen.

More and more people are myopic and wear contacts lenses.

Many older people are suffering from macular degeneration and may go blind.

Migraine pain significantly decreased when a person looks at soft green light and significantly increased when looking at bright white light (Hamzelou, 2016).  .

Vision problems are becoming more and more frequent. More and more children are near sighted and need vision correction while macular degeneration–a major cause of blindness for older adults–is becoming more prevalent (Fan et al, 2004Lee et al, 2002;
Faber et al, 2015Schneider, 2016).  As we look ahead into the future, a new epidemic is starting to roll in—compromised vision.  Major culprits include:

  • Near visual stress caused by looking intensely at surfaces or objects one to two feet away such as computer screens, tablets and cell phones inhibits the eyes to relax and increases near sightedness (Fernández-Montero et al, 2015).
  • Absence of visual relaxation and shifting focus from close to far distance. This ongoing increased focus decreases blinking rate and exhausts the eyes.
  • Absence of looking at the green coloring of vegetation that historically predominated our visual environment–a color that is relaxing for the eyes and body especially when looked from a distance.
  • Sleep suppression and disturbance caused working/reading/watching the LED screens (computer screen, tablet, cell phone, TV, or e-readers such as Amazon Kindle Fire or any tablet) before going to bed (Tosini et al, 2016). The blue light component produced by the LED screen suppresses melatonin production and interferes with sleep onset.
  • Extreme variation in light intensity damages the retina. The pupil which normally contracts to protect the retina as light intensity increases is too slow to respond to the sharp changes in light intensity. This is very similar to looking at the sun during a solar eclipse without eye protection.  The intense sun light literally will burn/damage the retina and can induce blindness.
  • Harmful exposure of the blue light component of the LED screens or light bulbs may increase inflammation and damage to the macular area of the retina. This is often labeled as toxic blue light with a wavelength of 415-455nm (Roberts, 2011).

The light that illuminates our visual world and how our world conditions us to use our eyes is totally different from how our eyes evolved over the last million years.   Although our present life is far removed from our evolutionary past, our evolutionary past is embedded within us and controls much of our biology and psychology. Consider how we used to live for millennia.

I look up and see vultures circling. It is not too far.  I rapidly walk in the direction.  I have a sense where the possible food source could be.  As I walk I alternately look at the distance and close at the ground and scrubs.  I continually scan the environment. Although there are shadows where I look the light is of somewhat similar intensity unless I look directly at the sun.  While doing tasks I focus ahead where I will plant my feet or at my food or objects my hands are manipulating. I alternately shift from foreground to background.  As I look in the distance and the many green plants, my eyes relax.

In the morning, the natural light wakes me.  The bright morning light wakes me, I stretch and move.  As the day progresses the light becomes brighter, then at sunset the light becomes softer and the yellow orange red spectrum predominates. 

Whether we lived twenty thousand years ago in caves or communities, or two hundred years ago in small houses in cities or farms, sunlight illuminated our world.  The sun light warm us, is necessary for vitamin D production and controls our biological circadian rhythms. The sun light and sometime the moonlight provided the only source of illumination.  Generally, we woke up with the light and went to sleep when the light disappeared.  For thousands of years human beings have attempted to bring light to the darkness to reduce danger. Light produced by fire for cooking and protection against predators, and some form of oil lamps to provide minimal illumination. These light sources were predominantly red and yellow. It was only with the application of gas and electrical illumination that lights could become brighter. Usually the light transitions were slow and gentle which allowed the ciliary muscles of the iris to contract thus making the pupil much smaller and reduce the influx of light to the retina and thereby protected the retina from excessive fluctuating light intensity.

Exposure to light in the evening or night is very recent in evolutionary terms. For hundreds of thousands of years the night was dark as we hid away in caves to avoid predators. And, the darkness allowed our eyes to regenerate. Only in the last few thousand years did candles or oil lamps with their yellow orange light illuminate the dark. The fear of the dark is primordial– in the dark we were the prey.  During those prehistoric times, our fear was reduced by huddling together for warmth and safety as we slept. These days, while sleeping we turn on a night light to feel safe or allow us to see in case we have to get up.  For many of us, darkness still feels unsafe since as babies the fear was amplified as we slept alone in a crib without feeling the tactile signals of safety provided by direct human contact.

Now most people live and work indoors and we are no longer exposed to direct or indirect sun light.  Instead, we can illuminate our work and personal world twenty four hours a day and total darkness is elusive.  Even when I close the shades in my bedroom, the blinking light of the smartphone charger, and the headlights of the cars passing by penetrate the darkness. While entering a dark room, we throw the switch and the room instantly is flooded with light.  This instant transition to full light pains the eyes as the eyes struggle to adapt by closing the iris.  The retina was already impacted. This may be one of the covert factors that contribute to the development of macular degeneration?

Historically, we mainly looked at reflected light and almost never at the light source such as the sun.  Now we predominantly look directly into the light source of the light bulb, TV, computer, laptop, e-readers and smart phone screens.  We are unaware that the light we see is not the same type of light as natural sun light.  It still appears white; however, it is an illusion.  We live most of our lives indoors illuminated by incandescent, fluorescent and LED light sources.  These lights have limited spectrums and may lead to light malnutrition and blue light poisoning.

The most recent change has been the use of light-emitting diode (LED)–an electronic semiconductor device that emits light when an electric current passes through it. This is the process of flat TV, computer, tablet, cellphone screens and LED light bulbs.  These bulbs are highly energy efficient and thus are being installed everywhere but are a significant health hazard which is described superbly and in detail at the end of the article by architect and lighting expert Milena Simeonova, www.lighting4health.com

What can you do to protect your eyes and improve your vision?

Use your eyes as much as possible as we did through most of our evolutionary history which means:

  • Read and implement the practices described in the superb book, Vision for Life: Ten Steps to Natural Eyesight Improvement., by Meir Schneider which has helped thousands of people maintain and improve their vision.
  • Take many vision breaks and look away from your screen. If possible look at the far distance and green plants and trees to relax your eyes.
  • Do NOT use LED e-reader; instead, use e-readers that can be read by reflective light such as Amazon Kindle Paperwhite eReader.
  • Block direct intense light sources. Arrange them so that they illuminate the walls and  you only see gradual light gradients of reflective light.
  • Install warm LED light (particularly for evening time) which have much less damaging blue light.
  • Install software such as flux on your computer that automatically adjusts your screen’s color-temperature depending on the time of day and your location. Thus, when the sun sets, the colors of the screen change and become more yellow, orange, and red thereby reducing the transmitted blue light I(Robinson, 2015).

–Mac, Windows, and Linux computers: f.flux is a free app (https://justgetflux.com/).

–Android or iPhones: install a “blue light filter” app.

  • Spent as much time as possible looking at far distances with soft green light backgrounds.
  • Encourage children to play outside and do not allow young children to entertain themselves with screen time especially as the eyes are developing (see my 2011 blog: Screens will hurt your children).
  • Limit screen time and increase movement and physical activity time.
  • Blink and blink more and relax your eyes. When visually stressed, blinking is inhibited because you do not want to miss the tiger who potentially could attack you. That is our evolutionary response pattern; however, there are no life threatening tigers around, thus allow yourself to blink.  Do the following exercise to experience how your eyes change depending how you open and close them.

How to increase stressed dry eyes:

Sit comfortably and let your eyes be closed and breathe.  Then exhale and when ready to inhale, inhale rapidly into your upper chest while opening your eyes wide as if fearful and frightened.  Repeat a second time and then keep holding your eyes wide open as if looking for danger.

Observe what happened.  Most people report that the front of their eyes felt slightly cooler as if a slight breeze was going over the cornea,  and the eyes (cornea) are drier.

How to increase relaxed moist eyes:

Sit comfortably and let your eyes be closed and breathe.  While breathing allow your abdomen to expand when you inhale and gently constrict when you exhale as if the lungs are a balloon in your abdomen. When ready, inhale while keeping the shoulders relaxed and the eyes still closed and then gently begin to exhale and very slowly and softly open your eyes slightly while looking down peacefully and content. Just as a mother may look down upon their baby in her arms with a slight smile. Repeat a second time and gently open your eyes slightly as the exhalation has started and is softly flowing.

Observe what happened.  Most people report that their eyes became softer, more relaxed with increased of the beginning of a tear beginning to fill the front of the cornea.

You have a choice! You can mobilize health or continue to risk your vision. Adapt the precautionary principle and act now.  See the in-depth description of the potential harm of LED lights described by architect and lighting designer Milena Simeonova who helps people stay healthy by applying natural light patterns inside buildings (www.lighting4health.com).

LED Lighting and Blue Light Hazard 

By Milena Simeonova, Architect, MS in Lighting LRC, IES, LC

When TVs, computers, tablets, and mobile devices are used in the evening hours, the cool LED light emanating from the screens, shifts the body onset for melatonin production, pushing back our bed time by 1-1.5hr or later. You may think that’s not bad, if you have to study for exams or deliver this final project. Think twice when disrupting the circadian system and depriving your body of normal sleep hours. It is a recipe for initiating illness.  Watch the superb TEDxCambridge 2011 lecture, A Sleep Epidemic, by Charles Szeisler, PhD, MD from Harvard Medical School (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4UxLpoNCxU)

Science has discovered that Blue light suppresses melatonin (the sleep hormone), and can either regulate or deregulate our circadian system (bio-clock), disrupting our sleep during the night, and lowering our performance during the day. It affects our normal body function that is synchronized with the daylight-night cycle as shown in Figure 1. If this cycle is disrupted, poor health follows in the form of heart disease, cancer, depression, obesity, etc.Slide1 circadian rhytm Figure 1:  Double plot (2 x 24 hours.) of typical daily rhythms of body temperature, melatonin, cortisol, and alertness in humans for a natural 24-hour light/dark cycle. Our circadian system regulates the body’s endocrine and hormonal production; these functions are synchronized with the cycle of day-night in Nature. A healthy body starts producing melatonin at about 7pm and melatonin (sleep hormone) peaks at 12am-3am. From: van Bommel, W. J. M. & van den Beld, G. J. (2003). Lighting for work: visual and biological effects. Philips Lighting. p.7.

What about the change from incandescent to LED light in the room? With LED lighting, the Blue Light Hazard has increased, particularly from high output cool LED light fixtures with clear lens. LED lighting is produced from a Blue LED chip combined with warm phosphors; think of it as a Blue spike with a warm tail (see Figure 2). The trouble with the Blue spike is that it peaks at about 430nm-440nm, and science has found that light below the 440nm wavelength frequency, results in macular degeneration in older people (Roberts, 2001). For more detail, see Chemistry Professor Joan E. Roberts from Fordham University presentation, How does the spectrum of light affects the human health? http://www.be-exchange.org/media/ByLightofDay_Presentation.compressed-1.pdf

Slide2 cool and warm light spectrumFigure 2:  Actual measurements with LED Spectrometer of color tuning LED light source. On the left is cool LED light with big Blue light spike (big output of Blue light) and a small warm tail of phosphors. On the right is a warm LED light with decreased Blue Light output. From: Floroiu, V.A. (2015). The ABCs of truly energy efficient LED lighting. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/abcs-truly-energy-efficient-led-lighting-victor-adrian-floroiu

The health risk is even greater for younger eyes (ages 20-40) because the older eyes are more protected with the natural aging of the eye lens that is thickening and yellowing, which in turn scatters Blue light and protects the eye retina from energy absorption. In contrast, the younger eyes allow 2-3 times more transmittance of Blue light, resulting in higher ocular oxidation and greater risk of retinal photo-degradation (Hammond et al, 2014). Thus  in a room lighted with cool LED lighting (above 4000K), there will be a lot of Blue light that can be damaging to the eye retina. This is particularly true, when eyes have direct exposure to high output LED fixtures that are non-dimmable.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, as LED lighting has other potential health issues, such as flicker that is barely discernible at full light output, but increases when dimming the lights; or the spatial flicker resulting from the gazing along bright LED lights in a room; or the multi-fringed or multiple shadows of a single object, projected from the multiple LED chips in a fixture, that is unnatural and not observed in Nature. It is important to choose LED lighting that maintains human health. (See: https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2010/01/21/pendulum-energy-efficiency-and-importance-human-factors)

Interactive and dynamic lighting are also on the rise, and will have unintended effects on the Autonomous Nervous System (ANS) with over-stimulating the Sympathetic neural system, disrupting the balance of arousal and rest that is needed for people to stay healthy.

How can we protect our health? For now, use 4000K LED light for daytime, use warmer lights 3000K and below for the evening hours; use as night light warm or amber color light; get blue light filter apps for your screens; dim your room lights in the evening, use LED lights that have a diffuse lens, shade to soften the light beam; aim LED lights to the ceiling or wall surfaces, and away from the eyes; and best of all – get plenty of healthy daylight during the day.

The mechanism of Blue Light Hazard (BLH). Blue light also known as “cool” light, has a high frequency of oscillation, high excitation of its light particles or photons. The “blue” photons have smaller mass, and carry significantly higher energy than the red light photons, blue photons can create oxidative photodegradation in ocular tissues, and suppress effectively melatonin and disrupt sleep even at very low level.

The colors of a rainbow illustrate the visible Light Spectrum. Each color represents a specific light frequency, vibrational energy, wavelength, and excitation. Light wavelength can be for the benefit or to the detriment of human health, depending on the dosage or length of exposure to the particular wavelength of light; and depending on the timing or when exposured to light.

Visible light spectrum ranges from 360 nm to 760 nm wavelengths; with Red light (620-750 nm) having the longer wavelength and smaller excitation, and Blue light (420-490 nm) having a short wavelength with high frequency (more pulses/time).

Contact information for Milena Simeonova, Architect, MS in Lighting LRC, IES, LC
1658 8th Avenue, San Francisco, California 94122, USA
T: 415-684-2770  Light4Health, www.lighting4health.com

Help people stay healthy by applying Natural Light Patterns, and the principle of less is more, in calm and nurturing places.

References:

Hamzelou, J. (2016).  Green light eases migraine pain – but we don’t know why.  New Scientist. 19 May 2016. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2089062-green-light-found-to-ease-the-pain-of-migraine/

Fan, D. S., Lam, D. S., Lam, R. F., Lau, J. T., Chong, K. S., Cheung, E. Y., … & Chew, S. J. (2004). Prevalence, incidence, and progression of myopia of school children in Hong Kong. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 45(4), 1071-1075.

Faber, C., Jehs, T., Juel, H. B., Singh, A., Falk, M. K., Sørensen, T. L., & Nissen, M. H. (2015). Early and exudative age‐related macular degeneration is associated with increased plasma levels of soluble TNF receptor II. Acta ophthalmologica, 93(3), 242-247.

Fernández-Montero, A., Olmo-Jimenez, J. M., Olmo, N., Bes-Rastrollo, M., Moreno-Galarraga, L., Moreno-Montañés, J., & Martínez-González, M. A. (2015). The impact of computer use in myopia progression: A cohort study in Spain. Preventive medicine, 71, 67-71.

Hammond, B. R., Johnson, B. A., & George, E. R. (2014). Oxidative photodegradation of ocular tissues: beneficial effects of filtering and exogenous antioxidants. Experimental eye research129, 135-150.

Roberts, D. (2011). Artificial Lighting and the Blue Light Hazard. Posted in: Daily Living. Retrieved June 18, 2016.

Roberts, J. E. (2001). Ocular phototoxicity. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology, 64(2), 136-143.

Robinson, M. (2015). This app has transformed my nighttime computer use. TechInsider, Oct. 28, 2015. http://www.techinsider.io/flux-review-2015-10

Schneider, M. (2016). Vision for Life: Ten Steps to Natural Eyesight Improvement. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. ISBN-13: 978-1623170080

Tosini, G., Ferguson, I., & Tsubota, K. (2016). Effects of blue light on the circadian system and eye physiology. Molecular vision, 22, 61.

van Bommel, W. J. M. & van den Beld, G. J. (2003). Lighting for work: visual and biological effects. Philips Lighting.


Health: Belonging to a tribe

How come rampage killings occur in affluent or upper middle class communities and in rural towns with low crime rate and not in high crime urban neighborhoods?

How come that most rampage shootings by a lone gunman continue to increase since the 1980’s?

How come suicide is extremely high in most modern societies (e.g., USA) while extremely low  in traditional tribal societies?

How come the depression and anxiety rates in wealthy countries are eight times that of poor countries?

How come people in countries with the largest income disparity such as the United States have the highest lifelong risk of develop depression as compared to countries with the smallest income disparity?

How come babies feel scared at night?

How come when people reflect back at their suffering during war it was simultaneous the worsts and the best of times?

How come after 9/11 or other major crisis, suicide and crime rates went down?

How come post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is significantly higher for the rear based troops who suffer relatively few casualties as compared to the front line troops who engage in actual combat?

How come Israel Defense Forces have a very low PTSD rate compared to the USA military forces?

How come the elderly and so many people feel isolated, lonely and sad?

How come the streets and parks are covered with litter and buildings and surfaces are covered with graffiti?

The answers may not reside within the individual but in our pathological individualistic culture.  Through millions of years of evolution, we were a clan–a tribe.  And, as a tribe, we were mutually dependent and supportive. This is our biological and social DNA–we are social interdependent beings. The common theme underlying the questions above is that we are disconnected from others and our community. We are living apart from our evolutionary background where living together as tribe allowed us to survive and prosper for  thousands of generations. When we are part of a community and are welcomed back after  experiencing trauma, depression, anxiety, violence, PTSD,  and even littering is significantly lower.

The importance of community, being part of tribe, is superbly described by New York Times bestselling author, Sebastian Junger, in his book, Tribe-On Homecoming and Belonging.  This is a must read book to understand the hidden pathology created by our modern economic inequality American culture that worships the individual affluence over the common good. It suggests that we must return to our evolutionary origins, radically reduce economic inequality, work on community wide projects to enhance the common good, and actively participate in rebuilding our tribe. Being a meaningful part of a tribe can be much more healing than ingesting a profit based pharmaceutical drug for depression and PTSD. Let us support the common good over the individual increase in wealth.

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

As the poet John Donne wrote in 1624:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 


Thought provoking essays: Aeon Magazine

Each day, I look forward to opening the email from Aeon Magazine which lists the titles of three essays, ideas or video clips. Immediately I click on one of titles that captivate me and read, watch or save it for a later. The essays are superbly written and cover philosophy, science, psychology, health society, technology and culture. As stated on their website, “Aeon has been publishing some of the most profound and provocative thinking on the web. It asks the biggest questions and finds the freshest, most original answers, provided by world-leading authorities on science, philosophy and society.”

The online Aeon Magazine is a remarkable source of well-thought out concepts and ideas.  Below are a few of the recent articles that captured me.

Soon we will see ‘chrono-’ attached to every form of medicine | Aeon Essays

Does evolution explain the social antipathy to refugees? | Aeon Essays

Your brain does not process information and it is not a computer | Aeon Essays

Letting go| Aeon Essays

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