Interview with TS Wiley on Chronobiology and Biorhythms

Here’s the Transcript

Ben Ahrens: I just wanted to start out by pulling a quote from your book. One of the things that you mention in Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival is that you portray lights as the real villain in our society, calling them the “ultimate endocrine disrupter”. Could you please describe what you mean by that?

T.S. Wiley: Well, hormones are all responsive to environmental cues. Hormones, in fact, report the environment in waves. You’re hearing me in a sound wave. If we were together, you’d see me in a light wave. All of those waves reporting environmental cues as hormones are dependent on the spin of the earth. Magnetism, day/night cycles, etc.

So the light bulb which brought night to a halt and light into the night changed all of our biorhythms, changed all of our aging processes, reproductive processes, etc. So the light bulb is the ultimate endocrine disrupter. What we think of endocrine disrupters as BPA, or chemicals that mimic estrogen – that’s the least of our problems.

Ben Ahrens: Right. So you’re saying that by introducing this artificial light we’ve disrupted our natural cycles in a very crucial way that leads to a cascade of biochemical and hormonal changes that are deleterious to our health. What does it mean really to be out of sync with our environment? And what are some of the negative health consequences that occur from being out of sync?

T.S. Wiley: Well, when the sun goes down and the light goes away, all things on this planet go to sleep except us. And now the things that live near our cities. We see in our pets cancer and tumors and heart disease, and you know, the veterinary bills are enormous at this point. But you don’t see a beaver with a heart attack, or a snake with cancer.

So the things in the world that obey nature’s laws of light and dark are spinning with the planet. We and our pets are not. And when I wrote Lights Out, one of the things that I did was look at NASA’s satellite photos of lights at night. And what I could do is overlay perfectly statistics for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. over the well-lit areas of the planet. So I knew I was onto something.

Ben Ahrens: Could you talk a little bit more about that spinning you mentioned? What are some of these cycles? We know we have circadian rhythms. We have annual rhythms,  day and night, lunar cycles. What are some more of these types of waves?

T.S. Wiley: Well, we can literally put a name of a hormone to it. The day and night cycles where we spin in and out of sunlight are reported by cortisol and prolactin and melatonin. The circannual cycles, those yearly cycles are reported by cortisol and insulin. You know, we all get three to four months of long light and high carbohydrate intake every trip around the sun; one summer every year. The way we live now is four summers every year.

So in terms of a marker of aging or a clock like the insulin clock, what happens is we’re aging four times as fast inside. We know that’s true because something called light glycosylation which is a browning or burnt sugar in the joints of 80 year old people is the same in 40 years prone to diabetics.

Ben Ahrens: Could you actually mention some of the main health issues that are resulting just from being out of sync?

T.S. Wiley: Well, type 2 diabetes. As we all know accelerated aging accounts for most of heart disease, a lot of dementia, certainly autoimmune states like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and so on and so forth. You know, the biggest one that’s most interesting to me of course is infertility. Women who decide to have a baby in their early thirties aren’t really in their early thirties. They’re almost 50 inside. We call that premature menopause.

Ben Ahrens: And one of the things you mentioned in your book that I found really interesting is just the fact that the invention of the light bulb and creating these sort of artificial signals from the environment, these are really the biggest changes that humanity has lived through in the past 10,000 years, as you say. And they’ve all happened within the past century.

So it’s not surprising that when you compare our cells to animals, you see all of these diseases that never existed prior to 100 years ago and still don’t really exist in animals that follow these natural cycles. Whereas we go against them, and here we are with this dilemma.

T.S. Wiley: Well, adaptation is not that fast. So if we can look at the fact that in the last 100 years we now have anesthesia. We have antibiotics and we have blood transfusion. Those are the main advances in medicine that have occurred in this time frame. So when you couple that with electric lighting, preserving food, losing growing cycles, the seasonality that existed in the food supply has significantly been lost and that’s 2/3rds of dietary issues and nutritional diseases because you weren’t meant to eat all that food all the time.

You were meant to eat things in cycle. So knowing that the only improvements in medical care are anesthesia, blood transfusion and antibiotics, you can understand why we’re living another 30 years longer because they keep patching us up, but we’re not really alive. If you look at a biological definition in any high school biology book for life, it’s respiration and reproduction.

We live 30 to 40 years beyond reproduction. So the question becomes, is that really alive? Women died at 47 at the turn of the century and they were still having menstrual periods when they died.  But my theory that we should have menstrual periods till we die now is very controversial.

Ben Ahrens: And one of the things I found really fascinating, you said in a previous interview, you talk about extending life versus quality of life. And that’s what it sounds like you’re saying here, is that we’ve been able to sort of put a band-aid on things and patch things up, but it’s really quality of life that’s taking a hit.

T.S. Wiley: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I discuss quality of life for children is destroyed. But in terms of adults, you have to understand that just breathing air is not necessarily being alive. And when you look at the extension of life without production, in other words, what are you giving back to this world, and how good do you feel? I mean, it’s certainly most vivid with cancer patients. They’ll talk to me about the fact that they’d rather die tomorrow taking hormones than live the way they feel now.

It’s the boiling frog metaphor. It’s you don’t know how bad you feel if it happens to you slowly. In terms of waking up with aches and pains, not knowing where your keys are, and not having the energy to want to work or reproduce or whatever you might be capable of when you were younger. People forget that that in-feeble state that they get up in as the living elderly is not really being alive. It does not feel good without hormones.

Ben Ahrens: Well, let’s talk about infertility for a second because really looking at it from a strictly organismic perspective, it really comes down to resource allocation. If we are not fertile it’s because our resources are being diverted toward something else – like fighting off pathogens like – things that are in effect of us being so out of sync with our environment. Am I right?

T.S. Wiley: Well, I would tell you that infertility is born of aging and is the number one reason. It’s not genetic. It’s not all those other things. It’s how old are you? And aging is a process that is not necessarily chronological, but chrono-biological. So it’s not how many years you’ve lived. It’s how many years your biology has lived.

When we take two days to one by staying up after midnight, that comes off the end of your life. When you don’t go to bed until the next day after midnight, you’ve taken two days to one. When you live four summers every orbit of the earth around the sun every year, that’s a clock that says, that’s four years, not one.

So internal aging, biological reproductive aging happens depending on food supply and light supply and pretty much nothing else.

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Ben Ahrens: In your book you mentioned things like polarity and oscillation. So of course oscillation being that of night and day, but there’s really polarities and oscillations on many different levels. For instance, even breathing is a type of oscillation that without a full exhalation you can’t be free to take a full inhalation. We see this with rest and digestion. We see this with all types of cycles, so could you talk a little bit about that from a quantum physics perspective?

T.S. Wiley: Well, everything is give and take. In and out. Up and down. Black and white. Hot and cold. I mean, there is no one without the other.

You’re right. If you don’t take a deep breath, you can’t get rid of the carbon dioxide. And frankly you change the rate at which you burn oxygen. For example, when you eat carbohydrates, your respiratory quotient of burn rate is 1.0. When you eat protein and fat, it’s 0.6. So carbohydrates necessarily come with antioxidants in them as a compensatory mechanism. So when we talk about how fruit and vegetables have antioxidants and meat, and fat don’t, there’s a reason. You are supposed to be bringing yourself down to that 0.6 if you possibly can.

Well, that kind of oscillation is built in to every system, every possible action and reaction in the cosmos. If you look at Penrose’s new work, he’s a physicist; he will tell you that there wasn’t a big bang. There are many big bangs that we expand and contract as a universe over and over again.

So down to our bone marrow, the expansion and contraction or the oscillation is a given of particles coalescing; of life itself.

Ben Ahrens: So like one of the things you mentioned is super-symmetry and there’s something called “Super Wave Theory”. So can we see this idea of cycles and now these cycles that have been disrupted as sort of wrong information that’s being provided to our bodies?

T.S. Wiley: Well, it’s the ultimate false trigger. Yeah. When you lose the waves, when you lose the matrix that you live in that’s reporting the environment what you should eat, what’s coming next. I mean, those light bulbs themselves, those false triggers, tell your entire being that it’s summer and winter is on the horizon. Winter never comes, and you never get to sleep it off and you just keep eating.

Let’s talk about literal evidence. When you want a midnight snack, it’s not a string cheese or a hardboiled egg, it’s wine or cake or something else. You are eating in a summer time mode because it’s summer in your head. So you’ve completely lost the matrix of reality that you would be living it. We’ve altered reality in this room, in this building, in this well-lighted night. That’s what happens.

Ben Ahrens: Right. So here we are with these distorted signals coming our way. So what can we do? What are some of the most basic, most natural things that we can do to mitigate some of these harmful effects?

T.S. Wiley: Well, you don’t need to have your living room lit up like it’s Yankee Stadium in a night game. You can turn the lights down. Well, you cannot, quite literally, turn the lights on as the sun falls. If you experience dawn and dusk, the color spectrum changing, for example, from black to pink to blue in the morning, and from blue to pink to black at night, it resets cortisol receptors for the next 24 hours and you would make cortisol more normally. You would perceive time in a more accurate way.

So not turning the lights on, walking out and watching the sun fall is very important. If it gets too dark in your house to see, you should probably go to sleep, not turn on the television, not sit in front of a computer. If it’s too dark in your house to see, there’s nothing to do.

If you must somehow will yourself to sleep a light, small bulb next to you on a table and reading, your eyes going back and forth hypnotically across the page, will put you to sleep in about fifteen minutes. But the light can’t be overhead or you’ll read it as the sun. It has to be next to you.

Ben Ahrens: Interesting. Interesting. What about amber lights or things that don’t carry the blue and green waves I’ve heard about.

T.S. Wiley: Well, that’s much better. Obviously I use the potential of pink or red sunglasses. Any kind of blue blockers, amber will do it, because on a physiological level, blue and green light keeps you awake. And pink or red blocks blue and green and it allows an enzyme called N-acetyltransferase to take your serotonin and turn it into melatonin.

When you block the enzyme and it never gets to come up because you’ve got blue spectrum light all over, your serotonin gets higher and higher, and you get kind of wackier and more depressed and you never make melatonin.

Ben Ahrens: Interesting story – while I have you, I’d love to share with you just briefly and get your insight on. I have a group of friends that live in Lapland, Northern Finland where it’s basically dark for 6 months out of the year, and then it’s very light out for six months out of the year. There’s also high rates of depression and suicide in that area. But these particular friends said that when they were students and they had more leeway, they didn’t have the imposed structure of a 9-5 lifestyle, that it became very natural for them to sleep about 10 to 12 hours in the winter and wake up and feel great. And in the summer they would sleep sometimes as little as 5 or 6 and wake up and feel great. And that seemed to be all they needed. So that seems to coordinate kind of with how animals hibernate. Am I correct?

T.S. Wiley: Yeah. Adaptation is possible at any latitude on the globe. Adaptation is possible with food supply. The problem is the same. You know Hans Selye said that without making that adaptive move to the next level, that’s where pathology actually lies.

So you don’t get sick unless things never change. And when you understand that you must keep changing to stay alive, the idea of staving off death is a problem because the only way to stay alive is to die. Because it’s a change that’s necessary. Does that make sense?

Ben Ahrens: It does. I think the further we resist these natural rhythms and impose our own structure on it, it sounds like the worse off we are.

T.S. Wiley: Well, our structure is one of economics, and it’s one of…what’s the right word? The herd mentality. How do you get the most people to do the same thing all the time? And that’s the most productive. So it started with the industrial revolution. Not just the discover of electricity with Tesla and Edison, but quite literally, work schedules; having lights on at night at the factory to chug 24 hours a day.

So we’re back to, again, money.

Ben Ahrens: So it seems like on a societal level we’re really up against something big that would require a ground up kind of movement. As a final thought, you kind of touched on these already in addressing some of the solutions and some of the actions that we as individuals can take to help ourselves out. What would you recommend to the doctors that are going to be listening? What kinds of tips can they provide their patients with and what can they do to help support them follow through on these types of tips to restore their natural biorhythms and get back to good health?

T.S. Wiley: Well, you’ve got to remember that a doctor have patients that, again, run it from night workers, shift worker, to aging human beings who just need some hormones and can’t sleep. You can’t sleep once your estrogen and testosterone are gone and progesterone for that matter.

So the people who can’t sleep, you can give them bio identical hormone replacement, and if you give it to them in a rhythm so we’re reporting the environment accurately, that’s my stuff, the why we protocol. You can change their lives significantly by helping them sleep. Of course the tips to leave your lights off all night, don’t watch TV till 2 o’clock in the morning; those are kind of obvious, but maybe they bear repeating.

The shift workers are in terrible trouble because they’re variable existence, their income comes from taking 2 days to 1 and trying to kill themselves to work all night. My father was one of those. He worked in a factory, and he worked the night shift. Of course, he died of a heart attack at a relatively young age; 63.

So your heart is the biggest clock in your body. And in shift workers we see more heart attacks. Stewardesses under radiation working odd hours, we see more breast cancer. Same with operating room nurses.

So those people you have to literally look at and say, “Get a new job. You got to figure something else out if you don’t want to die.

Ben Ahrens: Right. Major changes.

T.S. Wiley: They all of a sudden need hormones. Life is a choice. I wrote Lights Out and Sex, Lies and Menopause to give people information to make choices. You know? Those are not easy choices in terms of women, you might have to have a baby when you’re still poor. You might have to use your $150,000 education when you’re 40, not when you’re 30. So they’re always hard choices. And the ones about going to sleep and work are the most insidious because dopamine is addictive. You know?

It’s the neurotransmitter that helps you lay and reward pathways. And every time you stare at a computer, the blinking light is releasing dopamine. Every time you play a video game, even watching television is ingrained because as we lived in those caves, we sat around a flickering fire light and told stories. It’s no different than television or a movie.

So sleeping is the hardest problem.

Ben Ahrens: Yes, and I think you kind of summed it up right there. It’s about choices. We can do the best we can to coincide to get ourselves back in synch with these types of rhythms, but like you said, those insidious kind of impositions on us for work, the job, the responsibilities, these all come into play and it’s all a balancing act how much leeway do you really have and how far are you willing to go. It seems like it is a critical, crucial problem that if not addressed in some way or another, as you’ve already shown in numerous studies in your book Lights Out, which I highly recommend, I’m a huge fan myself,  that this is the cause of many, many of our health problems today.

So T.S. Wiley, thank you so much. And we can find all of your information at the Thank you for joining us.

About TS Wiley

T.S. Wiley is an anthropologist and medical theorist with a background in investigative journalism. An ever-active medical researcher, she is an established expert in environmental endocrinology and evolutionary biology, has a professional affiliation with the New York Academy of Sciences, and speaks regularly at such venues as the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM), the International Hormone Society, and the World Conference on Breast Cancer. Her two hit books: Sex, Lies, and Menopause and, Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival, are available on Amazon.

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