Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival
by T.S. Wiley with Bent Formby, Ph.D.
Book Review by Timothy Trepanier, BSc. Pharm.
Lose weight while you sleep? Unheard of! Low-fat foods are bad for your health? Ridiculous! Exercising can make you overweight? Outrageous! Light pollution can cause heart attacks, diabetes and cancer? Blasphemy!
Many people are well aware that much of the so-called “health and wellness science” reported in the mainstream media is not science at all and is in fact often the exact opposite of what is necessary to live a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle. Lights Out by T.S. Wiley is one of those books that challenges the reader to question almost every assertion made by those governing our collective health for the past half-century. Published in 2001 by Atria, a division of Simon and Shuster, Lights Out continues to be regarded 10 years later as an important and illuminating study on how the quality of our sleep affects our health. And in order to properly understand and appreciate why that is so, one must go back in time prior to the invention of the light bulb.
Evolutionary biology tells us that human beings, like all other animals in nature, are guided by their internal clocks, also known as “circadian rhythms.” Our bodies normally start producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, when the sun sets in the evening. It is natural for us to sleep when the sun goes down and wake up when the sun rises. This means that during the winter months, the body is meant to sleep for longer periods, conserving energy in a state of seasonal hibernation.
With the invention of the light bulb, and after it, television and computers, our bodies have been tricked into thinking we are in a perpetual state of summer, when there is an abundance of high carbohydrate foods (i.e., fruits) that we must eat in order to mate and persevere through the long months of famine in winter.
Lights Out suggests that eating these types of foods and staying up late all year long has disastrous effects on the body, like prolonged insulin resistance implicated in type II diabetes. The result of this way of living has become evident in the drastically increased rate of depression and disease in our modern society.
Using numerous references to scientific papers and journals, the author of this important book suggests that virtually everything we have been told about the causes of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression is simply not true. When we don’t sleep in sync with seasonal light exposure, says Wiley, we alter the biochemical rhythms that control our hormones and neurotransmitters affecting our appetite, fertility, immune system, heart function and mental health. The author recommends a minimum of 9.5 hours of sleep each night in total darkness during the winter months, in order to get our bodies back in balance and functioning at peak capacity.
Lights Out by T.S. Wiley can be found at the Rabbit Hole Bookstore in downtown Grande Prairie.
Tim Trepanier, BSc. Pharm., is the owner of The Rabbit Hole, Retro Relics and Coyote Moon Hemp Company, all businesses in Grande Prairie, AB.by