BMJ 2011; 342 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d596 (Published 28 January 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d596

Albrecht Dürer’s Praying Hands from 1508 was an altarpiece destroyed by fire in the 17th century, but a preparatory drawing survives. It appears that the hands depict human suffering as well as religious piety. The model had long fingers with a slight bend in the right little finger at the proximal interphalangeal joint, indicative of a possible Dupuytren’s contracture, and a slightly extended left thumb that suggests a boutonnière deformity of the left ring finger. The position of the hands indicates muscle wasting and neuropathy, possibly associated with diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis (Hektoen International 2011, www.hektoeninternational.org/Durers_praying_hands.html).

Most of us expose ourselves to room light before bedtime. Scientists hypothesised that such exposure suppresses the onset of melatonin synthesis and shortens the duration of melatonin production. Compared with dim light, exposure to room light resulted in a later melatonin onset in 99% of over 100 healthy people and shortened melatonin duration by about 90 minutes. Keeping the light on while asleep further suppressed melatonin. They concluded that room light significantly shortens the body’s internal representation of night duration, potentially affecting sleep, thermoregulation, blood pressure, and glucose homoeostasis (Endocrinology 2011;152:742).

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