Lights Out! – A Good Night’s Sleep & The Reasons Why You NEED It!

I have just read an interesting book given to me by one of my patients. It is called “Lights Out” by T.S. Wiley and Bent Formby, PhD. A lot of what the authors say makes good sense, and I would recommend that you read it.

Life is all about cycles and rhythms. The sun rises and sets; the moon waxes and wanes; the heart has a certain beat, etc. Man has evolved as part of this rhythm. The long days of summer were preparatory times for the short days of winter. We went to sleep when the sun set or soon thereafter and awakened with the early morning rays. This meant sleeping about fourteen hours per night during the winter and about 9-10 hours per night during the summer.

However, with the invention of electric lights, our natural rhythms were disrupted.Consequently, we are sleep deprived and exhausted.

The authors maintain that this sleep shortage is the underlying cause of rising obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. I will try to give a cogent summary of the book. Naturally, the authors back up their premises with referenced studies, and they delve deeply into the mechanics of and effects of sleep deprivation.

What is summer?

Summer is the time for mating and for preparation for the longer nights and for the lower temperatures that are to follow. The stress of mating season cause cortisol levels to rise.Cortisol increases carbohydrate (sugar) cravings. Carbohydrate ingestion causes insulin levels to go up. Insulin is a key – it unlocks the cells to allow sugar in. Sugar is stored as fat which we will need during the period of longer nights.

Insulin’s job is to store carbohydrates as fats and cholesterol, so that you can live off these during the winter. You actually become insulin resistant which means the carbs go to fat and there is no feedback to stop you from eating carbs and turning them into fat. Blood pressure and cholesterol normally increase.


Mating occurs and the cycle proceeds into winter. During this period of less food, longer nights, and thus more sleep, both cholesterol and hypertension decrease. The fat is utilized and insulin resistance disappears.

What was just described is the natural cycle for mammals. But what happens when it is always summer, when the lights never go out? This is what we are facing today.

We work late, come home, our houses are bathed in light, we watch a bright television screen or stare at a computer monitor until the wee hours – it is always summer.

Worse, we leave work about 7 p.m. or later, go to a gym, and under glaring lights, exercise like crazy. This “running”, at the gym sends a signal that a tiger is chasing us and because it is summer (long days of light), long nights (famine) are to follow.

This stress increases cortisol. Cortisol raises blood sugar. This increases insulin. Your high cortisol alters time perception and so when you get home you feel like there is more to do, so you have trouble going to bed. Besides that, you crave a snack – a carbohydrate (sugar) snack because the insulin has lowered your blood sugar. As this happens day in and day out, you store the carbs as fat and you get fatter and fatter, as you become insulin resistant.

You finally go to bed for 6-7 hours of sleep. Your clock radio is on your night stand and a tiny green glow emanates from the dial. The street light or even moonlight peeks in through the window. When we sleep (which should be for a minimum of 9 and one half hours) melatonin and prolactin production are supposed to increase. These are critical in boosting your immune system. However, studies show that the tiniest amount of light in your bedroom hampers melatonin secretion. We are totally messing up the light-dark cyclical messages to our systems.

“Lights Out” goes on to explain how these never ending signals of day cause heart disease, hypertension and cancer. The authors explain how depression is a by-product of never-ending light. The National Institute of Mental Health, in 1996, did a study on the most used antidepressants. They were trying to determine how these selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors), and tricyclic antidepressants affected depression. I quote from “Lights Out”, “It seems that their efficacy, all of it, rests solely in their ability to reinstate normal sleep rhythms in distraught, tired, out-of-sync brains. When you sleep, you feel better and more sane.” Thus proper sleep is critically important.

“Lights Out” demonstrates how the idea of a low fat diet is unhealthy. A high protein, high fat low carbohydrate diet is much healthier, but this must be accompanied by sleeping at least 9 and one-half hours per night in a totally dark room. Eating in sync with the seasons is important.Severely limit pasta, fruit and bread except during the months from June to September. In winter limit complex carbohydrates to 25-45 grams per day. In summer a bit more can be consumed.

Sleeping in concert with seasonal light exposure will help control your appetite. With proper sleep, melatonin goes up. This in turn keeps leptin up. Increased leptin decreases sugar craving. So to lose weight, sleep in a totally dark room, eat an Atkins-type diet and do not participate in extreme types of exercise which will raise your cortisol levels. According to the authors, if the high carb, low fat diet that the government recommends were effective, the rising obesity and type II diabetes wouldn’t be happening.

I do not believe that there is one diet for everyone. (see my past newsletters on the various type of diets). However, I do believe the majority of people need to be on a high protein, low carb diet and I certainly believe that we should be getting more hours of sleep in a totally dark room.

© 2007, Mark A. Breiner, DDS

The information presented is for educational purposes only. You should consult a qualified dentist or health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment.

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