It's Wintertime:    Lighten up !

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When winter falls, many find themselves in need of more light !

Milwaukee Sentinel - Good Morning. - Monday, December 26, 1994

( Very Bright  "Blue–Green"  Light is Required !!!   — TRC — )

Gannett News Service

Miserable in the wet gloom of a London winter, a woman spots an ad for a "small medieval Italian castle on the shores of the Mediterranean" to rent for a month.

She takes the plunge, arriving at the castle late at night in a thunderstorm. In the morning she goes to her bedroom window and opens the wooden shutters.

Suddenly, light floods her face The sea glitters below; the sun-drenched garden is lush with roses and pink geraniums. Everything is gloriously, intensely alive.

This lovely moment, in the 1992 film "Enchanted April," resonates deeply. We associate light with all that is joyous, vital and good, and darkness with all that is sad, stunted and deadening.

We know, without, being able to explain quite why, that we thrive in the sunlight and wither in the darkness. Yet, most of us spend our days in badly lighted homes and offices, exposed to less sunlight than primitive cave dwellers.

Those who suffer most are the 36 million Americans thought to have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or a milder form of SAD known as "winter blues." But millions more of us dread winter and dream of throwing open our shutters to an enchanted April.

As early as 400 B.C., Hippocrates, the father of medicine, described patients with seasonal depressions. By the second century, Greek and Roman doctors were directing sunlight toward the eyes to treat depression and lethargy.

Until well into the 1900s, doctors routinely advised patients to go south for the winter.

Before World War II, most hospitals were built with a solarium, or sunroom. The "light bath" was popular in Europe; "heliotherapy," it was called, after Helios, the Greek god of the sun.

In recent decades, sun worship has meant fried skin, not faith. Whatever our problems, pills or psychotherapy have been viewed as the solutions. But interest in light is surging again.

In 1984, Norman E. Rosenthal published his first paper on SAD and light therapy. Despite his credentials as a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, his ideas were greeted skeptically, as if heliotherapy were making a New Age comeback.

Now his 1993 book "Winter Blues" (Gililford Press, $14.95,) is the standard introduction to the subject, and many of the skeptics have become believers.

On a sunny day at the beach, you're exposed to as much as 100,000 lux. (Lux is the standard measure for light intensity.) Your bedside lamp emits perhaps 100 lux, and ordinary office lighting between 500 and 700.

So if you don't spend much time outside, you may be light-deprived, whatever the season. Office rats, couch potatoes and shut-ins can have problems with SAD even in the Sunbelt.

Still, the incidence of SAD increases with latitude and weather conditions. Only 1.4% of people who live in Florida are affected, vs. 9.7% of those in New Hampshire.

In the dark days of November, Yuma, Ariz., receives a blinding 87% of possible sunlight. But cloudy Juneau, Alaska, receives only 23%.

SAD sufferers typically feel low, slow, depressed, withdrawn and vegetative. They sleep more, eat more, crave carbohydrates and sweets and, unsurprisingly, gain weight. They may lose interest in sex, become irritable and impatient, have trouble thinking clearly and quickly, and make mistakes.

In the spring and summer, some lurch too far in the other direction, and become overly excitable, enthusiastic and energetic.

Fully 80% of those diagnosed with SAD are female; most are between 20 and 40, and from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds.

Of course, no one knows how many people don't come forward and aren't diagnosed. Many are teenagers, says Rosenthal by phone from his home in Maryland.

"One million kids out there are potentially treatable," he declares. Meanwhile, they have problems in school, withdraw from friends and sleep too much.

Some SAD sufferers insist they'd be fine if they could just be left alone to rest.

"I should have been a bear," one of Rosenthal's earliest patients told him. "Bears are allowed to hibernate; humans are not."

But family, friends and employers tend to make hibernation difficult. Going south for the winter is rarely an option.

Photo therapy – light treatment – is more practical, especially since you can do it at home while you read or exercise. You simply sit in front of very bright lights that are mounted on a wall or fitted into "light boxes." The boxes cost $300 and $500.

( You can make your own "Light Box" with inexpensive "Shop Lights".   I recommend obtaining 4, twin lamp, 4 foot, "Shop Lights" and a plug strip. Screw them to a board, install "cool white" lamps and set them against a wall and sit 3 feet away. Remember, light follows the inverse square rule, so if you sit 6 feet away you will only get one-fourth the light. — If you pay 10 cents per kilowatt-hour for your electricity, it will cost you 3.1 cents per hour to power the 8 lamps. — TRC — )

Most commercial light boxes use full spectrum fluorescent bulbs that filter out ultraviolet rays.

But the strength of the light has been found to be more important than the kind: a threshold level of 2,500 lux for 2 hours, or 10,000 lux for 30 minutes. The cost in electricity is minimal, only $20 or $30 a year. Within one week, and sometimes after only one or two sessions, most patients feel "a sustained sense of improved well-being," says Rosenthal. The full benefits take several weeks, and 80% of patients show significant progress, he says.

"Patients feel more energetic and less overwhelmed," agrees psychotherapist Mary Ann O'Connor of Brighton, N.Y. "They don't overeat and oversleep so much. Winter seems more manageable.

"One suicidal patient turned around in three days," says Michael R. Privitera Jr., director of the Mood Disorder Clinic at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) medical school.

Light also has proved useful in treating shift workers, victims of jet lag and patients with sleep disorders. Side effects are rare, though some patients have reported headaches, eyestrain, irritability and insomnia.

Nevertheless, many doctors remain skeptical.

It doesn't help that sunlight also is a favorite New Age cure-all, thought to have magical properties.

How light therapy works ( no longer ) remains a mystery.

Skeptics argue that patients improve because of "placebo effect": They believe the treatment is effective, so they feel better. And those most likely to seek light therapy also tend to have the most faith in it.

The placebo effect is real, Rosenthal acknowledges, and there's "much about light therapy we don't understand." But it's no coincidence "when patients forget to use their light boxes, their symptoms return," he says.

"It helps a lot of people mildly," agrees O'Connor. "For a smaller group, it's like night and day. It works like magic. If it works and it helps people; I don't care if it's a placebo or not."

Most SAD researchers are convinced that inadequate light creates a disturbance in brain chemistry. And "just as an injection of artificial insulin can control the symptoms of diabetes, so bright light can control the symptoms of SAD," Rosenthal writes.

Many doctors still prefer to treat SAD as they do other psychiatric disorders: with antidepressants like Prozac and psychotherapy. But this is changing. Says Laurence Guttmacher, who directs medical student education in psychiatry at the University of Rochester and who knows Rosenthal, "I was very skeptical when Norman's stuff first came out ... but I'm becoming increasingly a believer."

Recent research is especially promising: A study In Germany has found that Prozac is as effective as light for treating SAD.

"That's good news for Prozac, but better news for light," Rosenthal says. After all, Prozac costs about $70 a month. Patients thus can recover the cost of a light box within six months, and with fewer side effects.

Thanks to the invention of the light bulb, we have been able to steal many more waking hours from the darkness. That's made a lot of progress possible, but it also puts modern life at odds with the "Rhythms of Mother Nature".

Most Alaskans, for example insist on having a 9–to–5 work schedule even in winter when there's no sun – and suffer the SAD consequences. Yet Eskimos in rural villages have no complaints. They adapt to nature's rhythms, by sleeping more and doing less.

Milwaukee Journal–Sentinel Al Home With Technology

I've seen advertisements for boxes that are supposed to be therapeutic for certain types of depression. Is light therapy just a gimmick, or is there a scientific basis for it?

Answer:   Before electric lights were invented, our lives were governed by the sun — active by day, inactive by night. The body's internal clock has presumably been programmed into our genetic code over the millenniums. However, circadian (daily) rhythms are only one facet of our innate response to the sun. Recorded history is replete with metaphors that link our emotional well being to the seasons.

The effects of the seasons were well known in ancient times but were all but abandoned by modern medical practitioners — that is, until recently. In studies that began in the early '80s, the National Institute of Mental Health and others have documented a type of depression that has come to be known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.

Although most of us experience some alteration in mood or behavior with the changing seasons, only about 6% of the population suffers from SAD . The distinction is a matter of degree; the lives of SAD sufferers are disrupted to such an extent that sometimes medical treatment is necessary.

Since a lack of light is the primary catalyst, it isn't surprising that SAD is more prevalent in winter and that Northerners are at greater risk than Southerners. Symptoms include lethargy, inability to concentrate, loss in productivity, difficulty waking up and, increased appetite.

The symptoms mimic other types of depression, only a doctor can make a proper diagnosis.

Light therapy has been an effective treatment for SAD as well as for milder forms of seasonal depression, often referred to as "winter blues." In fact, most patients improve in less than a week.

Light therapy also can help shift workers and, windowless office workers. These people often suffer from SAD–like symptoms throughout the year, especially, if they don't get much sunlight through other activities.

Most light therapy is carried out using regular fluorescent tubes (cool white) (except with special provisions to block ultraviolet and cathode radiation). Light therapists initially used "full spectrum" or daylight tubes to treat SAD patients. However, subsequent studies have shown that the intensity of the light is far more important than the type of bulb.

The minimum intensity needed for therapeutic effect is 2,500 lux – 5 to 10 times brighter than well–lighted office. Since it would be impractical light a room to this level, SAD patients are treated with special light boxes positioned close to the face. The enclosure has a reflector to concentrate the light and a diffusing screen to spread it evenly. Some boxes produce up to 100,000 lux, allowing daily treatment time to be cut to an hour or less.

People suffering from light deprivation often are tempted to buy a light box and administer their own treatment. Although a properly designed box can do little harm, its considerable cost ($350 to $500) may go to waste without the careful supervision of a qualified specialist. Now that light therapy is no longer experimental, many insurance companies will pick up the cost.

Send questions to, Al Home With Technology, Home Section,
The Milwaukee Journal Box 661, Milwaukee, Wis. 53201.
RMS Syndication

Knee May be Key to Human's Biological Clock

Expert calls finding so surprising that it's "revolutionary" !

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Friday, January 16, 1998

New York Times

In an experiment from the strange but possibly true category, scientists have shone a bright (blue–green) light on the backs of human knees and, in some mysterious way, resets the master biological clock in the human brain.

Those treated with the light had their biological clocks advanced or delayed up to three hours, enough to overcome the fatigue associated with familiar forms of jet lag or insomnia. Why shining light on the knee would have this effect is a mystery.

The finding is so surprising that many experts said they were withholding judgment until the experiment was done again. But those who heard the study described at a meeting last summer said it was carefully done.

"We were all flabbergasted," said Michael Menaker, a biologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "For three days we tried to find flaws in the experiment and we couldn't."

Al Lewy, an expert on circadian rhythms at the University of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, said: "We've taken it as received wisdom that such effects would have to be mediated through the eyes. I am very surprised. It is so revolutionary."

Thomas Wehr, chief of the clinical psychobiology branch at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., said: "There are more biological mechanisms underlying the human response to light than was dreamt of in our original hypothesis. Still, until others repeat the experiment, the findings have to be regarded as preliminary."

If the finding does hold up, the experts said, it will have profound implications for basic biology, overturning, conventional ideas of how biological clocks are set.

It may also lead to new treatments for seasonal depression, sleep disorders and jet lag. Airline passengers could wear a knee brace with a light source that would reset their biological clocks as they slept during the flight.

The study, which is being published today in the journal "Science", was done by Scott Campbell and Patricia Murphy of the Laboratory of Human Chronobiology at Cornell University Medical College in White Plains, N.Y.

—   Waking the Bear   —

by Tommy Cichanowski

I should have been a bear is a thought that has often crossed my mind. I could then, simply sleep through the winter and everything would be much better.

Depression occurred, not because I had less energy in the winter, but because others and I had great expectations for myself, and of course the utility bills etc. keep arriving. The pressure of having to perform when my body wasn't up to it was the depressing issue. My low energy often produced conditions where I was a danger to my self and others, and resulted in two rather serious industrial accidents that sent me to the hospital. One almost resulted in my death, and the other cost me an eye.

Every summer my energy would be back, and rejoicing in this feeling of wholeness, I made many commitments that I often would be unable to keep the following winter. I had other biological issues that I address at this web site, but this "Tendency to Hibernate" was, in my early years, the most destructive and the greatest single factor of my depression.

Around 1990, the media brought to light the issue of S.A.D and it resonated in my being. I obtained four fluorescent "shop lights" and being unable to afford "full spectrum" bulbs I worked with the inexpensive "cool white". My studies with indoor plant growth had revealed, that plants grow as well, if not better, with the "cool white", as they did with the more expensive plant lights. The reason for this is that the "cool white" phosphor is very efficient, and even though the bulbs are emitting many frequencies of light that are not needed by plants, they are also emitting the required frequencies at comparable levels.

Shortly thereafter, additional research determined that a specific frequency of light was needed and the mechanism involved was uncovered. Blue-green light is required to suppress the body's levels of Melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal body that is involved in the healing process. (This helps explain why many animals will seek a dark place when in need of healing.) This hormone is believed to be the factor that makes bears hibernate and birds sing in the early morning.

Armed with is information, I obtained some "daylight" bulbs, which put out more energy in the blue part of the spectrum. Positive results were obtained from both sets of bulbs by using them to light my workspace, and holding myself prisoner there after sunset. I often would work late into the night, whereas before I would fall into sleep at sunset. Some thought that I was getting too much light and attempted to get me to reduce my exposure. Needless to say my social life suffered, not that I had much of one without the lights. However, I was being productive and my self-image was improving.

Some people found the "daylight" bulbs to be too "cold" and "harsh". In an attempt to make my workspace more sociable, I compromised and began using half "cool white" and half "daylight" bulbs in my fixtures. This works fine and is what I recommend for indoor lighting.

As I experimented with different arrangements of the fixtures, I began to realize that good results were a matter of exposure time, times intensity. The brighter the light, the less time I needed to obtain my desired results. The possibility of a social life was manifesting. I noticed too, that the time of day that I exposed myself to the lights was becoming less critical. Once I stabilized my circadian rhythms, I could be less formal regarding when I exposed myself. I could even skip a day, from time to time.

Originally, it was thought that light needed to be "taken in" through the eyes. Then, the above article, "Knee May be Key to Human's Biological Clock" was published. Was it possible that light on any exposed part of the body could do the trick? The idea was encouraging.

Last year, I decided to again winter in New Mexico. This time I would do it without the lights. Instead, I would increase my exposure to sunlight. I have always been very religious about getting enough sunlight to fulfill my body's need for vitamin D. This requires about twenty minutes of low angle sun per day as an average, in the nude when possible (The idea here is to store up the sun's energy to get through the many cloudy days we have in the north.).

This time I wanted to be in the sun much longer, hours longer.

Lately, we have heard much about the dangers of over exposing ourselves to UV. I agree with the rule of "Thou Shalt Not Burn Thy Self". But, it is even more dangerous not to get enough sunlight. There are five known fractions to the D complex and only one is put in our supplements. What do the other four do? More research is needed!

So, I would work in my usual vitamin D exposure and then, in part because it was chilly, I would take a nap in my car with my shirt off for an hour or two, using the windshield to filter out the UV. And, I'm excited to report that IT WORKED GREAT !!!

Six hours of sleep at night was enough. My evenings were available for socializing. I had the energy to do five "Talk Radio" shows; two as the featured guest and three as co-producer. During the six weeks I was there in New Mexico, I sent and received over 500 pieces of e-mail and had the energy to play "catch up" with my web site. (The search engines had just discovered my web site, even though I hadn't planed on launching it until the year 2000, and I was getting e-mail from all over the planet. I also needed to insert the META tags and expand my links.)

I met with retired researchers from Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs, all of who are doing exciting and relevant research on their own and was able to spend time with many of my friends. All possible because I learned How, and To, give my body More Light.

Remember the basics:

You need Bright Light at any time of year to help keep your energy up.

Your circadian rhythms need to be in sync with your life style. If you have trouble waking up, you need the light upon rising, no matter what the time of day is. (If you work nights, use the lights to adjust to that schedule.) If you have trouble staying awake until an appropriate bedtime, use the lights later in your day to stay awake.

Inorder to use the "bright sun trick", you must first get your circadian rhythms adjusted.

An hour of light is more effective than a pot of coffee !!!

Tommy Cichanowski
July 1999

  Let There Be Light:   The Healing Art of Spectro-Chrome  
If a little artificial colored light can heal,  just think what power Sun Light has.

  Some Chemical Causes of Depression  
There are many different chemical causes of depression.

  Another Real   "Miracle Cure"  !!!   
A doctor who makes solutions that provide solutions ...
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Dr. T.C. McDaniel   —   91 years old, and Loving his work !

Health and Light
The Effects of Natural and Artificial Light on Man and Other Living Things.

The Art of Healing Ourselves

Early Childhood Development

Developing Baby's Brain

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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