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Does sleeping without light help fight disease, boost intelligence?

5 mins read

Claim: A frequently shared WhatsApp message claims that sleeping at night without light helps to fight disease in the body, boost human intelligence, and make people look younger.

There is no scientific evidence establishing that sleeping at night without light helps to fight disease in the body, boost human intelligence, or make people look younger than people sleeping with light. Meanwhile, sleeping generally helps to boost the immune system and reposition the cells.

Full Text

A viral WhatsApp message said to have been written by one Dr. Akin itemised the benefits of sleeping without light. In the message, the writer, who cannot be authenticated whether as a medical doctor or health expert, and whose first name is not available, claimed that to sleep without night allows the “body to be able to produce a hormone called Melatonin which fights diseases.”

The writer of the message also claimed that “study shows that intelligent people all over the world do not sleep at night with lights on.”

This message has been shared and re-shared on WhatsApp on a leading micro-messaging platform used to spread misinformation in the world.

It reads:

“HEALTH BENEFITS OF SLEEPING WITHOUT LIGHT  ~Dr. Akin 

1) The body is able to produce a hormone (Melatonin) which fights diseases in the body while asleep at night in the dark only.

2) While asleep in the dark, the brain cells are able to rejuvenate back to their original state ( cells which were damaged due to excessive sunlight and electricity) and function properly. 

3) A study shows that Intelligent people all over the world do not sleep at night with lights on. Take note

4) Sleeping in the dark or without light at night, helps the body to fight Insomnia (check the meaning)

5) Melatonin decreases in the day time due to the presence of sun light. Hence you should not allow light at night when the body is ready to produce it again. 

6) Melatonin tells us its time to sleep. Lack of it causes sleeplessness.

7) Sleeping without light at night, makes an individual look fresh, lives longer and looks younger all the times. (Healthy).

The writer of the message ended it with a bit of advice encouraging people to “learn to sleep at night without a light.” He added that “nothing bad happens to those who practice it. Don’t be scared.”

He also encouraged people to share it.

Screenshot of the viral WhatsApp message. Credit: Rahaman Abiola

What is Melatonin which the writer/sender mentioned 3 times in his message?

According to the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a United States agency, Melatonin is a hormone the brain produces in response to darkness.  It helps with the timing of circadian rhythms (24-hour internal clock) and with sleep.

Melatonin is a hormone primarily released by the pineal gland at night and has long been associated with control of the sleep-wake cycle.

In their paper titled Melatonin as a Hormone: New Physiological and Clinical Insights, José Cipolla-Neto and Fernanda Gaspar do Amaral argued that the hormone is “a ubiquitous molecule present in almost every living being from bacteria to humans.”

The UK National Health Service (NHS) stated that the hormone can be “manmade”, that is its supplement can be made to fight “short-term sleep problems (insomnia).”

Melatonin supplement has also been confirmed to help with certain conditions, such as jet lag, delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, some sleep disorders in children, and anxiety before and after surgery.

Verification

  1. Does Melatonin fight disease in the body?

Melatonin, produced at night, has been established to be significant to the sleep-wake cycle. It helps to fight insomnia and other disorders in the body. However, there is no scientific proof that it fights disease.

Naturally, the body is created with an immune system function known as “antibodies” which fights invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins (chemicals produced by microbes). 

This is made up of different organs, cells, and proteins that work together. And it can be classified into two: The innate immune system (which every individual is born with); and the adaptive immune system (which one develops when the body is exposed to microbes or chemicals released by microbes.)

  1. Does a study show that intelligent people all over the world do not sleep at night with lights on?

This looks like an exaggeration. There is no scientific study that established that “intelligent people all over the world do not sleep at night with lights.”

  1. Does sleeping without light at night make an individual look fresh, live longer and look younger all the time?

Darkness is essential to sleep which is coordinated by the Melatonin hormone discussed above. 

Melatonin, known as the hormone of sleep or darkness, “sends a critical signal to the body that it is time to rest.

While sleeping itself settles the body and rearranges the cells, there is no scientific proof that sleeping without light contributes to the freshness of the body or the extension of lifespan.

Science has naturally attributed young-looking to “genes”, a basic physical and functional unit of heredity made up of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).

DNA is a molecule composed of two polynucleotide chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth, and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses.

A study by the World Health Organisation on “health and ageing” showed that other factors that can contribute to “staying younger” and looking fresh are diets (consumption of vitamins, fruits and vegetables), regular exercise, regular rest, and taking water (good for digestion).

Experts’ opinion

When contacted, a health expert at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital, Dr Lukman Adefabi, explained that Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland, a small, pea-shaped gland located in the brain.

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleeping-awake cycle. It’s produced in higher quantities in the morning. But when the sun rises, or there is a body exposure to light, the production rate of the hormone can be reduced. Melatonin also increases its production in the evening when the sun is set,” he explained.

Dr Adefabi emphasised further that the “major function” of the Melatonin hormone is to regulate the sleep cycle which he also said its supplement can be used to tackle insomnia when one is experiencing sleeplessness.

He added that there is no proof that people who sleep without light are intelligent.

It’s misleading

According to Dr Opeyemi Yakubu of the University Teaching Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, claims that people who sleep at night without light are intelligent is “misleading.”

He also added that Melatonin does not fight disease. It only contributes to part of the substance that controls sleep.

“Though melatonin forms part of the substance that controls the circadian rhythm, the information contained in the write-up (the viral WhatsApp claim) is not entirely true. So, it is misleading

“Intelligence and sleep without night have no correlation,” he said.

Circadian rhythms, according to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. 

These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes. 

Conclusion 

Darkness or sleeping without light is significant to the production of the Melatonin hormone responsible for the sleeping-awake cycle and fighting insomnia. However, there is no scientific research that links sleeping without light to intelligence or youthfulness.

The researcher produced this fact-check per the Dubawa 2020 Fellowship partnership with Legit.ng to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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