Today I have an important pollution warning for you—but I’m not talking about the type of pollution that pours out of smokestacks or is dumped into waterways.
You might not think of light as pollution, but I’m here to tell you that it can be just as hazardous to your health as any toxin in the air or water.
This includes excessive nighttime illumination from structures such as streetlights, security lights, and storefronts, etc. This light combines to form a type of pollution called artificial light at night, or ALAN.
ALAN can negatively affect many major aspects of your health. I’ll tell you more about what you need to watch out for and how you can protect yourself.
A little light can trigger a lot of health risks
If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy weight, ALAN might be a big part of the problem.
In a report that appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine this past summer, researchers compared body measurements to nighttime light exposure in more than 43,000 healthy, middle-aged women.
Results showed that those who kept a television or lamp on while they slept—compared to no lights or TV—were more likely to have…
- Greater waist circumference
- Greater waist-to-hip ratio
- Greater weight-to-height ratio
- Higher average body mass index
I wish I could tell you this was the worst of the ALAN effect, but no—it gets much worse.
Certified health coach and best-selling author, Bill Gottlieb points out a number of troubling health issues linked to ALAN in his Essential Age-Eraser Protocol.
Bill cites a South Korean study where participants exposed to ALAN were 29 percent more likely to suffer from depression and 27 percent more likely to commit suicide.
“Other research,” he says, “links ALAN to heart disease, diabetes, insomnia, being overweight, and (not surprisingly) faster aging and a shorter lifespan.”
The stunning ALAN connection to cancer risk
As bad as that daunting list of ALAN health harms is, it’s even worse when it comes to cancer risks. Bill notes just some of the latest research in this area:
- Researchers from the University of Haifa in Israel compared cancer rates in 164 countries and matched them to ALAN levels. Countries with the greatest ALAN had a 30 to 50 percent higher rate of breast cancer. And Bill adds that in other research, ALAN is linked to double the rate of breast cancer.
- In a National Institutes of Health study, women who said they kept a light or TV on while they slept were 20 percent more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Harvard Medical School researchers determined that women exposed to ALAN had a 35 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer.
ALAN exposure can also blunt cancer treatment effectiveness.
- Bill cites an animal study from Tulane University School of Medicine where ALAN exposure prompted a “complete loss of tumor sensitivity” to doxorubicin, a breast cancer drug. In another trial, the same Tulane team showed that ALAN caused resistance to the widely used breast cancer drug tamoxifen.
Bill points out that “ALAN goes after men, too. In a study from South Korea, men with the most exposure to ALAN were 73 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer.”
Two anti-ALAN solutions
You might be wondering exactly how artificial light at night boosts cancer risk…
In a quest for answers, Bill interviewed the late Erhard Haus, M.D., Ph.D.—an expert in the study of human health and nature’s cycles.
Dr. Haus pointed out that ALAN is proven to reduce production of melatonin—the key hormone that syncs your sleep-wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythm) with the cycle of light and dark.
Bill puts it like this, “Less melatonin may boost estrogen—and higher levels of estrogen are linked to breast cancer. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant—and lower levels mean there are more of the oxidizing, DNA-damaging free radicals that can cause cancer.”
In addition, Dr. Haus noted that ALAN can wreak havoc with your body clock. This “circadian disorganization” is also believed to promote cancer cell growth.
To reverse these effects, Dr. Haus offered two solutions:
- Use blackout curtains or shutters.
Although this tip might seem obvious, researchers at the University of Haifa have conducted a study to prove it. Women who slept with closed shutters at night were nearly 35 percent less likely to develop breast cancer compared to women who didn’t use shutters. Bill adds that blackout drapes are also a good idea.
- Take a melatonin supplement.
As Dr. Haus advised Bill, taking the same daily level of melatonin that’s produced by your body may help normalize your circadian rhythms and protect you from ALAN-caused cancer. His recommended intake: 0.5 to 1 mg melatonin, 30 minutes before bedtime. This is the same recommendation Bill gives to all his clients who are exposed to ALAN.
In addition to these important suggestions, Bill details three more ALAN-reducing strategies that can improve your sleep and further reduce your risk of chronic disease.
“Association of Exposure to Artificial Light at Night While Sleeping With Risk of Obesity in Women” JAMA Internal Medicine 2019; 179(8): 1061-1071. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0571