The benefits of gazing up at the night sky

Healthy stargazing

“Hi Doctor, I am feeling fatigued, depressed, overwhelmed and disconnected.”

“Well, nothing really shows up on your physical exam and lab tests. I think you need some noctcaelador.”


“You need to go stargazing…”

I met John one day by serendipity. He lived next door to my childhood friend Leon.

He was a tall, lanky, late 20s, bespectacled man, with a small van dyke beard and dark, loose, ruffled clothes. He pulled boards at the local sawmill for work and had long slender calloused fingers. John was an accomplished painter and amateur astronomer.

He also showed me his impressive homemade telescopes he made himself. They were large cylindrical tubes that measured up to a foot in diameter and six to eight feet in length. He delicately sanded his own lenses and mirrors. He let me look at the moon, planets and stars with his large powerful telescopes. It was amazing to look at the detail and clarity of these celestial objects. John stirred a passion in me for astronomy and spawned a lifelong interest in stargazing.

There are only a handful of scientific studies on the effects of noctcaelador, or nighttime stargazing, on human health. There is obviously little financial incentive in doing a placebo-controlled double-blind study on stargazing and some aspect of disease. Yet some of the benefits of stargazing may be undeniable.

During a search, I stumbled across the work of an American psychologist, William E Kelly who had a keen interest in studying some of the effects of nighttime stargazing on the health of some college students.

Kelly first coined the term “noctcaelador” in 2003 when he published a paper on the effect of night time stargazing in relationship to a student’s approach to academic achievement.

According to Kelly, noctcaelador was associated with greater openness to new ideas and experiences, increased investigative ability, increased artistic proclivity, a more rational approach to problem solving, increased need for cognition and thinking, a propensity to engage in fantasy, a tendency to become focused and deeply involved and being attentive to stimuli of interest and a willingness to consider unusual ideas and possibilities.

In one study, Kelly looked at the relationship between interest in watching the night sky and sleep length and coping mechanisms. One hundred and five college students completed the noctcaelador index. A decrease in sleep length was associated with an increase in night sky watching and was correlated with an increased ability of coping mechanisms. Coping ability was associated with better cognitive and behavioural strategies during stress and tension.

In another study, 251 university students filled out the Kelly noctcaelador index questionnaire. Increased night time stargazing was associated with increased reflective coping mechanisms. Individuals high in noctcaelador had a higher rational approach to reacting to stressful situations and an improved rational approach to problem solving.

And in yet another study, 140 university students completed the noctcaelador index questionnaire where a higher score on the index scale was associated with a higher openness to experience and appreciation of aesthetic values.

Better stress reactions and coping mechanisms were observed. An increased familiarity and tendency towards more traditional values was also observed in those that scored higher on the NI scale.

In August 2003, a total grid power outage left about 50 million people in the north-eastern parts of Canada and U.S. without power. Many calls to emergency services reported an eerie haze or fog in the sky. The haze or fog was simply the visual appearance of the Milky Way galaxy.

Many people didn’t realize that they were seeing the Milky Way galaxy in the night sky for the first time. The environmental and human effects of artificial light have not been fully studied. Many people are blinded by the artificial light, especially at night. They can’t, or don’t, see the true beauty of the night sky. Light pollution is an increased or excessive amount of artificial light upsets the balance of natural darkness.

The renowned cosmologist and physicist Stephen Hawking was once quoted as saying, “remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Doug Lobay is a practicing naturopathic physician in Kelowna, British Columbia.

He graduated with a bachelor of science degree from the University of British Columbia in 1987 and then attended Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle, Washington, where graduated with a doctorate in naturopathic medicine degree in 1991. While attending Bastyr College, he began to research the scientific basis of naturopathic medicine. 

He was surprised to find many of the current major medical journals abounded with scientific information on the use of diet, vitamins, nutritional supplements and herbal medicines.

Doug is a member of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia and has practiced as naturopathic family physician for more than 30 years.  He maintains a busy practice in Kelowna where he sees a wide age range of patients with various ailments.

He focuses on dietary modification, allergy testing, nutritional assessments, supplement recommendation for optimal health, various physical therapy modalities, various intravenous therapies including chelation therapy.

An avid writer, he has written seven books on various aspects of naturopathic medicine that are available on Amazon and was also a long-time medical contributor to the Townsend Letter journal for doctors and patients, where many of his articles are available to view on-line. He has also given numerous lectures, talks and has taught various courses on natural medicine.

Doug enjoys research, writing and teaching others about the virtues of natural health and good nutrition. When not working, he enjoys cycling, hiking, hockey, skiing, swimming, tennis and playing guitar.

If you have any further questions or comments, you can contact Dr. Lobay at 250-860-7622 or [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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