The Truth About Fibre

This post is for those of you interested in learning more about the fibre myth.

Here’s what some researchers have said –
Whilst fruits and vegetables are an essential part of our dietary intake, the role of fiber in the prevention of colorectal diseases remains controversial. A strong case cannot be made for a protective effect of dietary fiber against colorectal polyp or cancer. Neither has fiber been found to be useful in chronic constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. It is also not useful in the treatment of perianal conditions. The fiber deficit – diverticulosis theory should also be challenged. The authors urge clinicians to keep an open mind about fiber. One must be aware of the truths and myths about fiber before recommending it.

For more insight into how the fibre myth was perpetuated check out this blog by Steve Milloy.

Below are clips featuring Konstantin Monastyrsky, the author of the book Fibre Menace, which dispels misconceptions about the benefits of dietary fibre and colonoscopies.

A simple and easy way to know when you’re getting just the right amount of dietary fibre for your needs is to check your poop. Ideally, it should be smooth, snake-like in shape, easy to pass and not too smelly. The Bristol Stool Chart below is a good visual guide to digestive health.

Bristol Stool Chart










Books to Read
The Good Gut: Taking control of your weight, your mood, and your long-term health by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg. Penguin Books.
Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Anchor Books.
The Fibre Menace by Konstanin Monastyrsky. Ageless Press.


Scientific References
KY Tan, F Seow-Choen. 2007. Fiber and colorectal diseases: Separating fact from fiction. World J Gastroenterol. 13(31).
J. Ahn et al. 2013. Human gut microbiome and risk for colorectal cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 18;105(24):1907-11.
H.R. Hagland et al. 2015. Cellular metabolism in colorectal carcinogenesis: Influence of lifestyle, gut microbiome and metabolic pathways. Cancer Metabolism. 356:2:273–280.
J.P. Zackular et al. 2014. The human gut microbiome as a screening tool for colorectal cancer. Cancer Prev Res. 7(11):1112-21.
G. Zeller et al. 2014. Potential of fecal microbiota for early-stage detection of colorectal cancer. Mol Syst Biol. 28;10:766.
A. Sivan et al. 2015. Commensal Bifidobacterium promotes antitumor immunity and facilitates anti-PD-L1 efficacy. Science. 350:1084-89.
C.S. Coffin, Eldon A. Shaffer. 2006. The hot air and cold facts of dietary fibre. Can J Gastroenterol. 20(4): 255–256.
KS Ho et al. 2012. Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms. World J Gastroenterol. 18(33).
AF Peery et al. 2012. A high-fiber diet does not protect against asymptomatic diverticulosis. Gastroenterology. 142(2).
B Chassaing, et al. 2015. Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome. Nature. 519.
M Pimentel et al. 2012. Methanogens in human health and disease. Am J Gastroenterol Suppl. 1.
J Bures, et al. 2010. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 16(24).
C.S. Fuchs, et al. 1999. Dietary Fiber and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer and Adenoma in Women. N Engl J Med. 340:169-176

Fibre – Facts and Fiction

This post has been created in conjunction with the publication of my article titled “Digest this” in the July / August 2016 issue of Organic NZ Magazine.


More information
The Good Gut: Taking control of your weight, your mood, and your long-term health by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg. Penguin Books.
Good Calories, Bad Calories byGary Taubes. Anchor Books.
The Fibre Menace by Konstanin Monastyrsky. Ageless Press.

Diets to restore digestive balance
FODMAP diet – limits fermentable short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols –
SCD – specific carbohydrate diet –
GAPS – gut and psychology syndrome diet –

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Here’s a collection of fascinating clips which explore the many benefits of fasting – a simple, safe, inexpensive way for adults to boost immunity, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and prevent illness. There’s also some links and recommended reading at the end of this post. Enjoy!

Dr. Michael Mosley is the BBC science presenter credited with discovering the revolutionary 5:2 diet. With a background in science and medicine, he is leading a revolution championing the surprising benefits of fasting.

Mark Mattson is the Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. He is also a professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University. Mattson is one of the foremost researchers in the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
In this TEDX Talk presentation, he discusses the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Michael Mosley meets Joe, a Cronie. A Cronie is someone who subscribes to the CRON diet (Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition). A healthy diet which is rich in nutrients but low in calories. Michael and Joe take part in some medical tests to assess their health and relative aging, with some shocking results.

In the following clip, Michael Mosley discovers the powerful new science behind the ancient idea of fasting, and thinks he’s found a way of doing it that still allows him to enjoy his food. Michael tests out the science of fasting on himself – with life-changing results.

Michael Mosley meets Professor Mark Mattson. His work with mice at the National Institute on Ageing, has produced some startling results about diet and memory.

The clip below explains the biological process of autophagy.

Further reading
The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel. 2014.

For free access online to Upton Sinclair’s book “The Fasting Cure”, published in 1910, click here

For free access online to Edward Hooker Dewey’s book, “The No Breakfast Plan and the Fasting-Cure”, published in 1900, click here

Michael Mosley’s Fast Diet 2014.

Take a Leaf from Mother Nature and Slow Down

I put this post together for those of you interested in learning more about the many benefits of slowing down. To get you in the mood, here’s a lovely song by Simon and Garfunkel.

For a great explanation about why the brain cannot multitask, watch the clip below.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, explains why the human brain cannot multitask. He revises the 1956 psychology paper, “The Magical Number Seven,” to explain that our working memory at a given moment – can only hold between two and four items at a time.

Dark Night Sky Magic

Dark night skies have inspired humanity for aeons, but as our world becomes more brightly lit, our connection to the night is diminishing. Thankfully, the power of the stars and the magic of natural darkness is being celebrated and shared by people who recognise its importance via storytelling and song.

In the video below, Bob Crelin reveals his love of the stars which motivated him to create a children’s book, titled “There Once was a Sky Full of Stars”.

Find his book here

Singer Enya and lyricist Roma Ryan, were so inspired by the beautiful night sky visible on the Isle of Sark they created the album “Dark Sky Island”.

“Dark Sky Island”
Listen to the waves speak up
The blue voice of the sea
And they whisper as they touch the shore
Come back to me
Come back to me

Boat by boat upon the waves
All come to find the light
In the darkness of the sky above
Come back to me
Come back to me

Capella, Auriga
Eta Carinae, Sagitta
Aquila, Alpha Centauri

Twilight comes to close the day
And let the night break free
And from deep blue skies the heavens rise
Come back to me
Come back to me
Come back to me
Come back to me

Capella, Auriga
Eta Carinae, Sagitta
Aquila, Alpha Centaurii

Moonlight brings the ocean’s storms
Like waves upon the sea
And the midnight shore calls out once more
Come back to me
Come back to me
Come back to me
Come back to me

Come back to me
Come back to me

The World’s First Dark Sky Island – The Isle of Sark

Isle of Sark Nightscape

Photograph of the Milky Way over the avenue in Sark by Sue Daly

While researching a topic very close to my heart, namely the night sky and the importance of darkness, I discovered a remarkable destination which has great appeal to stargazers, nature lovers and tourists alike: the small Isle of Sark, in the Channel Islands.

Self governing Sark, has a population of around 550 people. It has no public street lighting or cars and the only form of transport is by bicycle, boat, tractor and foot. Aware of the benefits of preserving their precious night sky and protecting their natural environment, the community embarked on a mission to illuminate their island sensibly and sustainably. As a result, there is no light pollution so the view of the heavens is breathtakingly beautiful at night. It’s also no coincidence residents report low levels of crime and high levels of happiness in their community.

In February, 2011, the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) designated Sark as the world’s first dark sky island, and I’m so inspired by the residents accomplishments, I’ve put this post together to share their message and visionary ways. 

Although Sark has some unique features which lend itself to being a dark sky reserve, every town and city on the planet can significantly improve the way they light their surrounds by taking the same small but effective steps the island residents have taken. Sark is a shining example of what is possible when a community comes together. 

You’ll find a wonderful documentary by Al Jazeera below, which explores the many advantages of being a recognised Dark Sky reserve, followed by a shorter clip about Sark before it attained its designation.

I’ve also kindly been given permission by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) to repost their superb article by guest writer Ada Blair, about Sark. Her study is the first of its kind to begin to address the “missing sky factor” within the fields of ecopsychology – the relationship between human beings and the natural world. It makes fascinating reading and further supports what dark sky advocates have known all along – that the natural night sky has a positive impact on wellbeing.

Click here to learn more about ecopsychology. 
Click here to find out about environmentally responsible outdoor lighting. 

Finally, there’s a very short interview with songstress Enya, who explains how a poem about Sark inspired the title track and name of her latest album “Dark Sky Island”, released in November, 2015.

An aerial photo of Sark, Channel Islands.

An aerial photo of Sark, Channel Islands.
Photo by Peter Capper, used under Creative Commons license.

Psychological Benefits of Dark Skies
by Ada Blair
I’ve been a regular visitor to the Isle of Sark since 2010 when a close friend of mine moved there. Sark, at only 5.5 square kilometres, is the smallest of the four main Channel Islands, which lie between England and France. In January 2011 the International Dark-Sky Association designated Sark as a Dark Sky Community and Sark became the world’s first “Dark Sky Island.” Moreover, as author Paul Bogard notes, unlike many Dark Sky Places, “what makes Sark especially compelling is that people actually live there.”

The island has a population of about 550 and attracts up to 40,000 visitors annually. All cars and vehicles other than tractors are banned and people travel by bike or on foot. There are no public streetlights, which is why Sark is the perfect environment for viewing celestial bodies of the night sky.

As a psychotherapist who has also studied ecopsychology, I have a longstanding interest in how encounters with nature (including the sky) may positively impact wellbeing and even lead to transformation. When out at night on Sark, enveloped by its very dark sky, I regularly felt this effect and became curious if others have had similar experiences.

The fields of ecopsychology and environmental psychology look at how encounters with nature may be beneficial and transformative but usually the focus is on “green”/grounded nature rather than encounters with the sky. In fact, it’s not often that the sky is even considered part of nature. IDA however states the sky is, “one half of the entire planet’s natural environment.” Although dark sky supporters often claim dark skies enhance wellbeing, there is a little research to support these claims. Much of the research focuses instead on the negative impacts of light pollution on human and animal health and behaviour.

This is why in 2014, I chose to study the role the night sky plays in the lives of Sark residents as part of my M.A. work in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. My research uses the qualitative method of intuitive inquiry, which was originally developed by William Braud and Rosemarie Anderson to study transformative experiences.

I chose to approach the research by exploring the following themes

  • The human desire to see the night sky
  • The commercialisation of this desire through astronomical tourism
  • The “nature” of nature, fear of the dark, and nature and wellbeing

I carried out an extensive literature review to consider the themes as they appear in relevant scholarly literature in the fields of ecopsychology, health and environmental psychology, and cultural astronomy. In March 2014, I conducted a series of individual, semi-structured interviews and a focus group, and a number of other participants completed interview questions online. In addition, I kept a “reflexive journal” during the research process of my observations, dreams and significant events.

The Findings
Sark residents place a high level of value and enjoyment on observing the night sky, alone or with others, and feel that this strengthened family/community connection. For example, residents made comments like “I absolutely love it (the night sky) and can’t imagine being without it” and “last summer we were lying on the field outside the Island Hall with everybody looking up during the meteor shower … people had sleeping bags, thermoses and hot chocolate. … It was brilliant … everybody was getting so much enjoyment out of it.”

People often share stories about Sark’s night sky with each other, for example, “Did you see the Milky Way above the Seignurie last night, wasn’t it amazing?”

There’s a widespread belief that observing the night sky results in positive (and sometimes transformative) feelings. According to one resident, “‘This huge mass of stars in the sky, it makes you feel a lot better … you look up and you look out … it just draws you out, you concentrate on something else.

None of the participants expressed being afraid of the dark and instead said things like “My kids, they’ve been brought up here … They’ll go on their bikes ahead of me in pitch darkness” and “When I moved here I had to train myself not to be scared … now I feel 100 percent safe.”

Also, residents see the night sky as part of nature: “The dark sky is integral. It’s what Sark is. It’s part of nature here.”

This research begins to address the “missing sky factor” within the fields of ecopsychology and health and environmental psychology. These findings can be used to strengthen the claims of the dark skies movement that dark night skies can have a positive impact on wellbeing.

A picture of Ada next to the Isle of Sark sign. Ada Blair is a psychotherapist and workshop facilitator living in Edinburgh, Scotland. She works in the nonprofit sector, higher education and has a private practice. She enjoys having her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds! Ada’s M.A. research is currently being revised for publication in the Sophia Centre Monograph Series 2016 published through the Sophia Centre Press


Embracing the Dark


In winter of 2015, I embarked upon an experiment to experience segmented sleep. (I was inspired by an intriguing article online by Clark Strand, where he described accessing a state of blissful transcendence akin to deep meditation.)

To get an inkling about segmented sleep, watch the 3 minute clip below which explains how artificial lighting at night has dramatically changed our sleeping patterns.

For four weeks, while housesitting a wonderfully private property in the countryside of Central Otago, I reset my circadian clock by avoiding all electrical lighting and digital devices from dusk to dawn. The experience was life changing.

There were no streetlights, no light trespass from neighbours – only glorious darkness once the sun set. Not only did I experience the mystical state Mr Strand described each night, I also noticed with delight, every other sphere of my life benefitted.

Before I began, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew with every cell in my body it was something I had to try. (I’ve always been drawn to the night and feel most at home during the darkling hours.) Part of me wondered if I’d be able to adhere to such a strict regime, and I wasn’t sure how practical it would be to implement – so what happened next was a welcome surprise.

On my first evening, I was acutely aware of the soft and gentle transition of dusk. It’s my favourite time probably because of the hush that comes over the landscape, but I’d never been quite so keenly observant of the subtle power it holds – and something very special occurred, and continued to occur for the following 30 nights.

As the light began to fade, I felt a profound sense of calm come over me, and instead of filling in my evening with activity, I wanted to do the very opposite. I needed to savour the stillness. I sat in silence and let the sensations wash through me and it was so pleasurable I thought, golly this could be a little addictive. It was at that moment I had an epiphany.

One month of dark evenings was going to be easy.

The thought that then followed, was, what am I going to do once my 30 days are up? How will I maintain the same degree of darkness when back in a rural setting with streetlights, car headlights and neighbours who love their security lights? This experience was too wonderful just to let it slip away: I had to find a way. In the meantime, I would devote myself to making the most of my dark nights.

Another change I observed which happened quickly, was the lovely sleepiness that came over me once night fell, and I found myself naturally gravitating to bed at the ridiculously early hour of 7pm. Once in bed though, I didn’t go to sleep, I lay there in blissful revery. There was no urgency, no pressure, just complete relaxation. After a few hours, sleep would come like the softest blanket, and then a few hours later, I would wake. But when I woke, I felt very calm, and the transition was gentle. In fact, gentleness was with me from dusk to dawn.

Just as Clark Strand mentions in his book, Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless AgeI was experiencing the magical, crystal clear and calm ‘hours of God’ in between the first and second phase of segmented sleep – and it was beautiful beyond words.

For two to three hours in the middle of the night, I also felt a deep sense of wonder that this state was so easy to access, as long as the lights remained off. I then discovered this was the ideal time to meditate and practice slow and gentle yin yoga in front of the woodfire.

Many things changed while I enjoyed segmented sleep, one of which was the quality of my dreams. I’m a vivid dreamer having 2-3 a night. But the messages in my dreams with segmented sleep were infused with even more clarity and significance than usual. I would wake up from them thinking, fantastic! I’ve just gained some remarkable insight about my myself, my situation, and the world at large. It was so lovely and important I considered it a gift, as my waking hours were also enhanced.

Another important change was the urge to be busy and ‘productive’ disappeared. I’m a nightowl, and for years I’ve enjoyed devoting my evenings to creative work. This usually involves hours on the laptop as I write, research and design. I wondered if I’d miss this time, if I’d end up having to catch up during daylight, or that I might feel cheated in some way.

The funny thing is, I’ve never felt more balanced, creative and productive, even though from the outside looking in, I was doing far less – and I definitely didn’t feel cheated.

By doing less I was in fact, accomplishing more and I felt deeply rewarded.

My tranquil evenings became incredibly precious to me because of what they contained and offered; the joy of silence, the richness of serenity, the beauty of darkness, moments bright with creativity, and the profound connection I felt to the natural world around me. The less I did in my evenings, the richer they became. The fewer distractions in my environment, the calmer and clearer my mind. I felt all this delicious, empty spaciousness inside, devoid of clutter, noise and activity.

Adapting to evenings without artificial light wasn’t actually a big deal and I found myself eagerly looking forward to the wonders of my nights. (Each one was different in some special way.) I used a single candle until I was ready for bed. I learned how little light I needed to do simple chores, and I adored the warm, cosy ambience of firelight, the smell of pine and sap, the warm glow of a burning wick, and the appreciation I felt for the bed I slept in.

I also became aware of just how dependent we are as a society on electricity, and how much LEDs, (those blindingly intense white / blue lights) have infiltrated our lives. They are used in so many electrical appliances in the home they are now tricky to avoid. (Blue rich LEDs cause mayhem to our circadian clock, disrupting natural biological rhythms and reducing the quality of our sleep.)

I cooked my meals before night fell, and used a gas burner or the woodfire to heat up soups and casseroles. I arranged my nighttime snacks in the fridge so they were easy to access, and when I opened the fridge door, I covered my eyes with my arm, my face in the crook of my elbow, to avoid the light that came on. I turned off the modem, my mobile phone, the slow cooker, and the stereo – and I turned the phone to the wall so it’s illuminated display wasn’t on show. I used an old fashioned alarm clock (no digital lights) so I knew what hours I was keeping while I was in bed.

In the process, I discovered more about how the rods and cones in my eyes work. Everything slowed down to a gloriously gentle pace, and my senses were heightened. I enjoyed showers in the dark, and took my time to massage ghee and coconut oil into my skin afterwards. (Something I often rushed in the daytime.) I was in awe that if given the opportunity, I could feel so grounded, calm, content and clear, and I realised just how vital, uncompromised darkness is to my health and happiness. Most importantly, I appreciate more than I ever have before, what my body is capable of when I give it what it really needs – the full spectrum of darkness at night.

I am now familiar with a part of the human experience unknown to most of us and I’m grateful. Hopefully, more people will wake up to the fact that we need darkness just as much as we need daylight – and perhaps they may also discover the wonders of segmented sleep.

Listen to the following interview with Clark Strand, the author of Waking Up to the Dark – Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age.

Jessie Gamble briefly explains the importance of our body clock, our connection to nature, and the importance of darkness and segmented sleep.

Further Reading
The Siesta and the Midnight Sun: How Our Bodies Experience Time by Jessie Gamble.
Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age by Clark Strand, 2015
Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K. Randall, 2013
Evening’s Empire: A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe by Craig Koslofsky, 2011
At Day’s Close: A History of Nighttime by  Roger Ekirch. WW Norton & Company, 2005.
Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by TS Wileyand Brent Formby, 2001


Why Less is More


In conjunction with the publication of my article about minimalism in the January / February 2016 issue of Organic NZ, and the spring issue 2015, of Yoga Scene, I’ve put together this post for those of you who want to learn more about this social movement. After the clips, documentaries and interveiws below, you’ll find a list of wonderful books to read, with links where you can find them.

A brilliant documentary about consumerism

While filming “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” The Minimalists took time to answer questions about minimalism, decluttering, and life.

Less is more – Life Edited by Graham Hill 2015
Graham Hill explains how people can design their lives for more happiness with less stuff.

Writer and designer Graham Hill asks: Can having less stuff, in less room, lead to more happiness? He makes the case for taking up less space, and lays out three rules for editing your life.

Getting rid of 1000 things by Liz Wright 2014
Liz realised she spent a lot of time, money and resources buying and maintaining ‘stuff’. So, she set herself the challenge to get rid of 1,000 things from her life in an attempt to live more simply.

Barry Schwartz TedTalks

The 100 things challenge by Dave Bruno – TEDTalks
Dave is the author of The 100 Thing Challenge, a book that documents his challenge to live with less than 100 personal items for a year. Dave challenges our conceptualization of The American Dream and asks us what is truly necessary to live a fulfilled and happy life.

Matthieu Ricard: The habits of happiness 2008 TEDTalks
What is happiness, and how can we all get some? Buddhist monk, photographer and author Matthieu Ricard has devoted his life to these questions, and his answer is influenced by his faith as well as by his scientific turn of mind: We can train our minds in habits of happiness. Interwoven with his talk are stunning photographs of the Himalayas and of his spiritual community.

Further Reading
The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life 2015 by Janice Kaplan
Rising Strong by Brene Brown 2015
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Wau we Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown 2015
Living More With Less Kindle Edition by James Wallman 2014
Simplify Kindle Edition by Joshua Becker
Inside-Out Simplicity Kindle Edition by Joshua Becker
Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness (Simply for Students) Kindle Edition by Joshua Becker
Less Is More: How To Live With Less Stuff For Greater Health And Happiness (Minimal Living, Minimalist Living Tips) 2014 Kindle Edition by Zoe Ingram
The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz
Less is More: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy and Lasting Happiness Kindle Edition by Cecile Andrews
Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World Kindle Edition by Linda Breen Pierce
Living in the Land of Enough Kindle Edition by Courtney Carver

Light Pollution

In conjunction with the publication of my article about light pollution in the September / October 2015, issue of Organic NZ magazine, I’ve put together a great array of fascinating podcasts, interviews, presentations and such, including a reading list and scientific references, for those who want more information about this important topic.

Click below to listen to a captivating podcast by Vanessa Lowe the creator of Nocturne called ‘The Vanishing Dark’ or click here to visit her website and hear her other wonderful stories involving the darkness.

Paul Bogard Interview on Radio NZ.

Radio NZ interview with author and astrophotographer Paul Bogarde, and astronomer and astrophotographer John Field about artificial light and light pollution, updated at 12:15 pm on 12 April 2014.
Radio NZ interview

A fantastic explanation about the importance of darkness and better lighting practice.

The importance of protecting our dark night sky

Protecting our dark sky from light pollution here in Dunedin, NZ.

Ranger Kate explains why the night sky is important to her, and why we need to focus special attention on preserving this amazing piece of heritage.

The risks of light pollution

The negative environmental and biological effects of light pollution.

An inspiring TEDx TALK by New Zealand astrophotographer Mark Gee.

Even the Wall Street Journal has recently acknowledged the importance of looking after our circadian clock. Check out their article here.

The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) lists five ways to protect our night sky. To find out what they are click here. The IDA also lists five interesting facts about light pollution. Click here to find out more.

John Hearnshaw has written an excellent article published in July 2015, in the newspaper The Press about light pollution. You can read it by clicking here. He is an Emeritus Professor of Astronomy at the University of Canterbury and also the President of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand and Chair of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve.

Not only does light pollution have a disasterous impact upon human health, the new brighter and more intense ‘energy efficient’ LED lights  are also proving detrimental to many other species including the firefly. To read more about this study published in August, 2015 click here. 

The following text explains how artificial night lighting effects insects: Attraction of insects to streetlamps in a rural setting in Germany. Source: Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting. Catherine Rich & Travis Longcore (eds). 2006. Island Press. Pages 281-304.

Insect Behavior Toward Lights
The first thing noted was the behavior of the insects toward lights, described in three ways. The first effect is the near effect on individual insects, called the fixated or capture effect, which many have noticed regarding insects and lights, creating the cliché of like a moth to a flame. However, what most people have not noticed is the fact that some insects will fly towards, and actually stop, some distance before a light, stuck there all night as if dazzled by the light. To them, it must be an incomprehensible sight, something well beyond the natural instinct they have encoded in their DNA. Being so captured by the light means that they then are then unable to perform their basic functions for life, such as to find food or to reproduce. Thus they are removed from gene pool and the species suffers, because some human just can’t be bothered to turn off the light. Others insects fly directly into the light, only to get killed by the hot glass surface. Still others try to naturally fly at angles to the light, assuming it is the distant Moon, only to enter into an ever tighter spiral around the light and hence become caught by the light. Such insects either become easy prey for other animals or eventually just exhaust themselves, falling dead to the ground.

The next two effects are broader in scale and their far potent effects vary according to background conditions, such the lunar phase or from localized sky glow. They include the crash barrier effect, where a string of lights, such as those along a road that crosses an insect flight path, becomes a actual fence to those insects, prohibiting their crossing. This effect stops the insect’s movement across the land. The final effect is the vacuum cleaner effect, where the insects are drawn out of their environment to their deaths by a light making the landscape evacuated of life. A brighter lunar phase reduces the contrast of the lights and hence their effect. The lights’ strength variations depend on the height of the lights, background sky glow from light pollution sources, and range from 400-600m for dark sky conditions or 50m for full moon conditions, though there is some discussion on how to measure the effect.

A time lapse clip of insects attracted to artificial light by Charlie McCarthy.

Paul Bogard. 2014.The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light.
Paul Bogard. 2008. Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark.
Abraham Haim and Boris A Portnov. 2013. Light Pollution as a New Risk Factor for Human Breast and Prostate Cancers.
International Dark-Sky Association. 2012. Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities.
Josiane Meier et al (eds). 2014. Urban Lighting, Light Pollution and Society.
Bob Mizon. 2012. Light Pollution: Responses and Remedies. Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series.
C Rich and T Longcore. 2005. Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting.
TS Wileyand Brent Formby. 2001. Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival.
Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting by Catherine Rich and Travis Longcore.
Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities by The International Dark-Sky Association

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3. R. Chepesiuk. 2009. Missing the dark: Health effects of light pollution. Environ Health Perspect. 117(1): A20–A27.
4. Welsh and D. Farrington. 2008. Effects of improved street lighting on crime. Campbell Systematic Reviews.
6. R. Steinbach et al. 2015. The effect of reduced street lighting on road casualties and crime in England and Wales: controlled interrupted time series analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health.
7. M. Aubé et al. 2013. Evaluating Potential Spectral Impacts of Various Artificial Lights on Melatonin Suppression, Photosynthesis, and Star Visibility. PLOS.
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9.B. Christian, et al. 2014. The Impact of light source spectral power distribution on sky glow. J. Quantitative Spectroscopy and Radiative Transfer. Vol 139:21–26.
10. C. Bruce-White, M. Shardlow. 2011. A review of the impact of artificial light on invertebrates: Putting the backbone into invertebrate conservation. Peterborough, UK: Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust. p.32.
11. S.A. Gauthreaux, C.G. Belser. 2006. Effects of artificial night lighting on migrating birds. In: Rich C, Longcore T, editors. Ecological consequences of artificial night lighting. Washington DC: Island Press. 67–93.
12. R.G. Stevens. 2011. Testing the light at night (LAN) theory for breast cancer causation. Chronobiol Int 28(8): 653–656.
13. I. Kloog, R.G. Stevens, A. Haim, B.A. Portnoy. 2010. Nighttime light level co-distributes with breast cancer incidence. Cancer Causes Control 21: 2059–2068.
14. I. Kloog, A. Haim, R.G. Stevens, B.A. Portnov. 2009. Global co-distribution of light at night (LAN) and cancers of prostate, colon, and lung in men. Chronobiol Int 26(1): 108–125.
15. L.K. Fonken, J.L. Workman, J.C. Walton, Z.M. Weil, J.S. Morris, et al. 2010. Light at night increases body mass by shifting the time of food intake. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107(43): 18664–18669.
16. K. Spiegel, K. Knutson, R. Leproult, E. Tasali, E. Van Cauter. 2005. Sleep loss: A novel risk factor for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes. J Appl Physiol 99(5): 2008–2019.
17. S.W. Lockley, G.C. Brainard, C.A. Czeisler. 2003. High sensitivity of the human circadian melatonin rhythm to resetting by short wavelength light. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 88(9): 4502–4505.
18. C. Cajochen, S. Frey, D. Anders, J. Späti, M. Bues, et al. 2011. Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. J Appl Physiol 110: 1432–1438.
19. M.S. Rea, J.P. Freyssinier. 2009. Outdoor lighting: Visual efficacy (ASSIST recommends, Volume 6, Issue 2). New York: Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. p.14.

The Dark Side of Blue Light

In conjunction with the publication of my article in the July / August 2015 issue of Organic NZ Magazine, I’ve put together this post which provides more information to those of you interested in this subject. You can also find further scientific references about the negative effects of blue light exposure at the bottom of this post.

Click here to read a helpful article aimed at parents, published in the Baltimore Sun, explaining how teenagers can get the sleep they need for health and wellbeing by implementing good habits regarding the use of technology.

Light and Health Program Director Mariana Figueiro, from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) and Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, reveals surprising facts about the effects of light – its presence, its absence, and its patterns – on human health.

Learn about the fascinating mysteries of sleep.

Learn about a nifty free software app to reduce the blue light that is emitted from your digital devices.

Click here to install the free software called F.lux

For iPhones and iPads you can install this free blue light filter app by clicking here.

For Android run devices, install the free app Twilight.

For information about protecting your eyes from blue light exposure by wearing crizal prevencia glass lens watch the following clips.

For a wonderful in depth explanation about the history, development and effects of blue light on the human body please click here.

Further Scientific References
Due to the limited word count in Organic NZ Magazine, here are the references I was unable to include at the end of my article.

A. Chang, D. Aeschbacha, J. F. Duffy and C. A. Czeislera. 2014.Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. PNAS. vol. 112:no. 4:1232–1237.
Click here for the full pdf version.

M. Figueiro, D. Overington.
Self-luminous devices and melatonin suppression in adolescents. Lighting Res. Technol. 2015; 0: 1–10.
Click here for the document.

E. Chamorro, C. Bonnin-Arias, M. Pérez-Carrasco, J. Muñoz de Luna, D. Vázquez, C. Sánchez-Ramos. 2013. Effects of Light-emitting Diode Radiations on Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells In Vitro. Photopchemistry and Photobiology. Vol 89 (2) 468-473. Click here for the abstract.

D. C. Holzman. 2010. What’s in a Colour? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light. Environ Health Perspect. 118(1): A22–A27. 
Click here for the full pdf version.

A. Dominguez-Rodriguez, P. Abreu-Gonzalez, J.J. Sanchez-Sanchez, J.C. Kaski, R.J. Reiter. 2010. Melatonin and circadian biology in human cardiovascular disease. J Pineal Res. 49(1):14-22. Click here for the abstract.

D.E. Blask. 2009. Melatonin, sleep disturbance and cancer risk. Sleep Med Rev. 13(4):257-64. Click here for the abstract.

According to the 2015 study above by M. Figueiro and D. Overington: While people are using an iPad at night their body produces 55% less melatonin.

After shutting off the lights (and the iPad), they took an extra 10 minutes to fall asleep.
When they did fall asleep, they had less REM sleep during the night.
The next morning, the iPad readers felt sleepier, and it took them “hours longer” to feel alert. The book readers quickly felt more alert immediately upon waking.
When it was time for bed the next night, the iPad readers’ circadian clocks were delayed by more than 90 minutes. Their bodies began to feel tired an hour and a half later than normal, because they were exposed to alerting light from the iPad the night before.

Each participant was tested with both the iPad and reading a book. Books on paper did not suppress melatonin or cause participants to feel groggy the next day.

The 5-day study was conducted by Anne-Marie Chang, Daniel Aeschbach, Jeanne F. Duffy, and Charles A. Czeisler at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital).

This study shows that the bright blue light from displays at night is impacting our sleep. If you stay up late reading a bright iPad until just before bedtime, your sleep will be negatively affected, and your body will expect to stay up later the next night (as much as 90 minutes later). You may have trouble winding down, feeling alert when you should be getting tired.

This level of melatonin suppression is quite large. Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone, and has many functions in the body related to sleep. It is also a strong anti-inflammatory known to suppress cancer cell growth.

Because the circadian shift of using an iPad at night is very large, only a few nights of staying up late reading might put your body several hours out of phase with your normal routine.

In 2012, the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health made this recommendation:
“Recognises that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents. This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment.”