The Evolution of Light and the Importance of Circadian Rhythms

Illuminating Our Past: Living in Harmony with Natural Sunlight

Human evolution is intricately linked to the rhythms of the natural world. For millennia, our ancestors lived under the full-spectrum glow of the sun, basking in its balanced wavelengths. Unlike the artificial light sources we encounter today, natural sunlight emits a harmonious spectrum that aligns with our biological needs. Artificial lights today can isolate specific wavelengths (e.g. blue light) to stimulate the brain and body, pushing people to be more productive or active. This impact on hormones and neurotransmitters can create a sense of "forced stress" in environments like workplaces or schools.

Thomas Edison and the Birth of Artificial Light

In 1880, Thomas Edison famously filed for a patent for the incandescent light bulb, which marked a transformative moment in human history. Suddenly, individuals could expose themselves to artificial (blue) light after sunset, disrupting the age-old rhythm dictated by the Earth's natural light cycle.

Source: National Archive

Living in Sync with Nature: Pre-Light Bulb Era

Before the advent of artificial lighting, human beings lived in sync with the Earth's rhythm. As the sun set and disappeared below the horizon, the absence of bright light naturally signaled the brain and body to wind down and prepare for rest and rejuvenation. The primary post-sunset light source was fire, emitting predominantly infrared light (perceived as heat) and zero disruptive blue light, making it way less disruptive to our circadian rhythms than the shorter wavelengths such as blue light. Blue light simply should not be present after sunset.

Credit: Researchgate, On the Potential of Flaming Hotspot Detection at Night via Multiband Visible/Near-Infrared Imaging

The Dual Nature of Blue Light: Daytime Alertness vs. Nighttime Relaxation

Blue light, inherent in natural daylight, plays a crucial role in promoting wakefulness and alertness during the day. However, at night, exposure to blue light is counterproductive and causes health issues. Our circadian rhythm, the internal clock regulating physiological and behavioral changes over a 24-hour cycle, naturally shifts towards relaxation and sleep preparation after sunset unless bright (especially blue) light continues to be present in the environment — again, something that does not naturally occur in nature. It is the human invention of isolated wavelengths that causes this disruption. When will we realize we cannot separate ourselves from nature? We are nature. We went from being a part of nature to being apart from nature.

Circadian Rhythms: A Symphony Orchestrated by Light

Circadian rhythms, influenced predominantly by light and darkness, govern a wide array of functions in organisms, including plants, animals, and humans. The Nobel Prize-winning discoveries of Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young in 2017 underscore the pivotal role of light in synchronizing our internal cycles with the day's length. The researchers discovered that the primary driver of the circadian rhythm is light. This makes sense, considering that a day is created by one full rotation of the earth around its own axis, and the most significant change in the environment during this period is the shift between the presence and absence of daylight.

Melatonin: The Guardian of Sleep and Cellular Health

At the heart of circadian rhythm regulation is melatonin, a hormone responsible for inducing sleep, slowing down brain waves, and facilitating cellular repair. Chronic exposure to blue light, especially after sunset, disrupts melatonin production, leading to a cascade of negative effects, including compromised cellular repair and increased degeneration of mitochondrial function.

Shop Ra Optics Today

Blue Light Protection Eyewear

Recognizing the health implications of artificial light, Ra Optics has crafted blue light protection eyewear designed to filter out harmful blue light, promoting healthy circadian rhythms, safeguarding melatonin production, protecting against eye damage, improving the quality of sleep, and increasing overall health as a result.

Preserving Well-Being: Ra Optics and Mitochondrial Health

The significance of protecting our natural melatonin production cannot be overstated. Chronic disruption of circadian rhythms and melatonin production, driven by excessive blue light exposure, can contribute to long-term health consequences. Mitochondrial dysfunction, almost always at the root of modern chronic illnesses, underscores the critical need to shield our bodies from the detrimental effects of blue light at night.

In a world where artificial light is omnipresent, Ra Optics offers protection, providing a stylish and science-backed solution to mitigate the adverse impacts of excessive blue light exposure. By embracing the principles of circadian health and understanding the evolutionary context of light, we can strive for better sleep, improved well-being, and a healthier future. It is time to remember

As Dr. Joe Dispenza beautifully said: "Knowledge is the precursor to experience”. Then, once we know about the tremendous power of light, we can act on that to realize the greatest version of ourselves.

November 20, 2023 — Tim Jacobsen

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