Let's talk about lightbulbs and melatonin💡
How are incandescent, LED, and fluorescent lights different?
Did you know different types of lightbulbs have different impacts on wellbeing? Check it out:
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As you can see, incandescent lighting is closest to natural lighting. But even still, it is much, much brighter than candlelight, which remains the “most natural” manmade lighting.
Let's look at each in turn:
Incandescent: these lights have a parallel graph to candle light, only brighter. When used after sunset they will cause about 40% melatonin suppression.
LED: These lights are missing the red "heat" frequencies and have unnatural peaks in the blue and green ranges. When used after sunset, they will cause about 80% melatonin suppression.
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Fluorescent: These lights have very little healing infrared. They also have unnatural peaks in the blue and green frequencies. When used after sunset, they will cause about 80% melatonin suppression.
Candlelight: Soothing to look at and smooth in spectrum, candlelight has not been observed to disturb circadian rhythms as measured by melatonin suppression. Moonlight, even at the equator where it is much brighter than at the distant latitudes, likewise does not cause circadian disruption (even if it keeps you up at night!).
Choosing dim incandescent bulbs allows greater melatonin circulation. To do even more, you can move those lights closer to the floor (below eye level). When the lights are down low, our bodies respond to that like sunset/firelight. You can even rely on actual little nightlights down by the floor outlets (even if you aren’t a kid). Think of nightlights like the coals of a well-banked fire: low, warm, dim.
When looking at daytime choices, however, use those overhead lights! For days, you can put in as high-watt incandescents in your overhead lighting as is safe for your fixtures.
The reason we want brighter lights in the daytime is our bodies expect light about 10,000x as bright as the average interior. So, switching to high-watt bulbs can help, but the real answer is to let more natural daylight in. I've written about this before. The architectural term is daylighting. So, please read my post here about how to create circadian-effective interiors:
Those design choices will augment your lightbulb choices.
To learn a bit more about the body chemistry of this, keep reading.
Melatonin, and it's precursor serotonin, comes from tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid we get from food. If you don't eat enough protein, you won't be able to make enough of these substances even if your lights are good.
The recommended daily intake for adults is between 250–425 milligrams per day. This could look like eating one to three of the following tryptophan-rich foods per day:
Roast lamb (3 ounces) — 353 mg
Chicken breast (3 ounces) — 343 mg
Pumpkin seeds (2 ounces) — 328 mg
Skirt steak (3 ounces) — 318 mg
Ground turkey (3 ounces) — 306 mg
Salmon (3 ounces) — 285 mg
Tuna fillet (3 ounces) — 285 mg
Roast turkey breast (3 ounces) — 244 mg
Firm tofu (3 ounces) — 222 mg
Edamame (3 ounces) — 156 mg
Canned sardines (3 ounces) — 154 mg
Eggs (two) — 154 mg
Hamburger patty, 97% lean (3 ounces) — 114 mg
Then, assuming you have adequate tryptophan, spend even 15 mins outdoor without sunglasses. This gives you a big boost of serotonin. Serotonin, important in it's own right, then gets converted to melatonin. It takes about 2 hours in dim light for this process to take place.
Getting outside first thing in the morning when you wake up is a great way to get that serotonin flowing. A good thing about this time of day is you also can't get a sunburn. In fact, as long as your shadow is longer than you, you are outside the risk of sunburning. This is also something I have written about, so please enjoy that here if sunburn is a concern:
If it's not fear of the sun, but grogginess keeping you out of the sun, try spending more time outside at whatever time. Surveys show that people who spend 1-2 hours per day outside tend to be early birds! And people who stay inside all day, tend to be night owls.
Finally, you can also keep melatonin production strong by avoiding excess Fluoride (F). F, as found in some toothpastes, dental treatments, and water supplies, stops melatonin production. See the chart below to see where F, like excess light at night, gets in the way:
I hope all this is interesting to you as it is to me! We are living in a world full of fake lights giving fake signals to our bodies. I hope this encourages you to spend more time in the sun. More time in the moon and starlight. More time with the candles lit.
To sum it all up, incandescents are the best electric lights we have now, but natural lights are still the best. Eat your protein, and find out how to keep your teeth healthy without Flouride. These are the 3 most potent things you can do to enjoy the mood and wellbeing boost that melatonin offers.
That's all for today, but you can always review past posts at nikkofujita.substack.com/archive. And citations here: nikkofujita.substack.com/p/citations.