Leading a Light-Friendly Lifestyle
So what does the new science of light and fertility mean to you? Plenty, both in terms of practical lifestyle changes you can make starting today (or tonight), and new treatments and products you may wish to investigate as a fertility consumer. Here’s how you can make the science of light (and darkness) work for you and your fertility.
Keep your body in sync with the solar day.
In practical terms, that means getting out in the daylight each morning. It takes approximately 10 minutes after your retina is first exposed to sufficient light to significantly suppress melatonin. “Taking a half-hour walk in the morning after daybreak is a great way to cue your body that morning has arrived,” says Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the director of the Light and Health Program at the LRC.
Celebrate the sun.
Our bodies synthesize sunlight to create a form of vitamin D that is now believed to affect at least 1,000 different genes governing virtually every tissue in the body. Researchers at the Countess of Chester Hospital and Liverpool Women’s Hospital in England stated that melatonin may act directly on reproductive tissues, making women more fertile during times of year when there is maximum daylight.
Guys need sunshine, too.
A 2008 Australian study found that almost one-third of nearly 800 men with fertility problems had lower than normal levels of vitamin D. The researchers concluded that concerns about sun exposure could be contributing to vitamin D deficiencies among men.
Give your circadian clock a break.
When you are trying to conceive, keep a regular schedule. “You may want to reduce frequent travel that will take you across multiple time zones to avoid throwing your circadian clock off,” says Figueiro.
Light Up Your Fertility
Light therapy may be a treatment whose time has come. We are, after all, living in an era where complementary and alternative therapies are gaining mainstream acceptance and people are seeking less invasive treatments whenever possible.
More and more heath-care practitioners are eager to discover how light can work in conjunction with traditional treatments. And, as the science of light therapy evolves, fertility patients can look forward to light treatment recommendations that have been designed to fit their specific needs.
Several products now on the market make the science of light therapy available to anyone who wants to try its fertility-boosting powers.
Devices to block blue light
The pineal gland actually only responds to the blue rays in ordinary light (sunlight or indoor). Being exposed to blue light late in the evening can delay the flow of the hormone melatonin. To simulate the natural environment before the advent of electric lighting, you need to avoid exposure to blue light in the evening. Visit lowbluelights.com for an explanation of how blue light affects fertility, and shop the site for glasses, TV and computer screen filters, and light bulbs that can minimize or eliminate your exposure to evening blue light.
Special light boxes—such as those used to treat SAD—can keep the sunshine in your (daytime) life regardless of the season or your schedule, and avoid what researchers call “circadian darkness.” A 2007 study concluded that administering 4,300 lux 45 minutes after wakening led to an increase in ovulatory cycles.
The newest entry in the light and fertility treatment field, Luness (luness.com) is designed to provide an exact dose of light at a particular time on a particular schedule, replicating the natural rhythm of moonlight. The computer-controlled bedside device bounces light off the ceiling on a schedule that helps to regulate menstruation and ovulation, making it easier for couples to predict the most fertile time.
Light Matters in IVF Labs, Too
Several intriguing studies have found that the lighting in IVF (in vitro fertilization) clinics can affect pregnancy rates.
In 2007, researchers at the University of Hawaii found that even a few minutes of exposure to the blue light contained in sunlight and fluorescent lighting is harmful to mice embryos. The researchers advised fertility clinics to use warm-white lights (which are yellow-white in color and designed to block blue light) and keep the lights as low as possible during certain parts of the IVF cycle: during egg collection and insemination, and while the fertilized eggs are being examined before being transferred to the uterus.
Last year another study found that a special type of light can actually improve fertility-clinic pregnancy rates. The results, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, demonstrated that germicidal ultraviolet C (UVC) lighting increased clinical pregnancy rates by 18.2 percent. These lights help to eliminate microorganisms that might be toxic to an embryo.
A version of this story was originally published in the Winter 2009 issue of Conceive Magazine.
Related Topics: Boost Your Fertility, Fertility Cycle, Fertility Health
Light and Fertility|
Jan 06, 2010
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