For thousands of years humans spent their days outside, exposed to natural light. Our regular or circadian rhythm that governs every function in our body relies on this natural light to be healthy. Our eyes take in this light and project the information to different parts of the brain, which then sends signals to almost every cell in our body that help determine the release of hormones, neurotransmitters, and regulates gene expression. We are hard-wired to see and live in natural light.
Over 90% of our time is now spent indoors under artificial light. We spend hours staring at computer screens, tablets and cell phones. These devices emit a very strong artificial blue light that enters through receptors in our eyes and can damage the brain, eyes and endocrine system. The most damaging effect is on our pineal gland which produces the sleep hormone melatonin. Without melatonin our sleep is greatly disrupted. Melatonin also plays a role as an antioxidant and has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Excessive blue light negatively affects our thyroid and adrenal glands. It has even been postulated that blue light damages mitochondria, the part of the cell that produces energy in our body, leading to fatigue.
Recent research has demonstrated that every cell in our body has a gene called Clock that is synchronized to light and dark. This includes your heart, muscles, skin, kidneys, etc. Think about it this way: natural light is like food to our body. Looking at blue light all day and night is like trying to stay healthy eating just Doritos and ice cream. Eventually it will catch up to us and we will end up with health problems.
So, what do we do about this?
1. Very simple — do what our ancestors have done forever: - GO OUTSIDE.
2. When you go outside, try not to wear sunglasses or eyeglasses because these filter out the full spectrum of light. If you have to wear prescription glasses or contacts take them off and just sit outside for a while. Even your skin contains receptors for light, so do responsible sun tanning for a few minutes a day.
3. You do not have to be outside for long periods of time to get the full benefits. Studies have shown that even after 15 or 20 minutes you can reset your circadian rhythm. The ideal time is in the morning just as it is getting light because this gets your body in sync with the day. If indoors all day, try to get out every couple of hours, even if it is just for a few minutes. Take a walk outside during lunch. This would also apply to winter months, or when there is minimal sunlight.
Here are some other things you can do to minimize your exposure to blue light:
1. Wear glasses that reflect the blue light from computers and other devices. These glasses help a lot and we have many people tell us that their eyes feel much better. These glasses also help reflect LED and fluorescent lights and can be worn at night when you are home. The best and least expensive glasses we have found are called GammaRay and can be bought on Amazon. You can buy these with or without magnification. If you have prescription glasses, talk to your optician and they can use lenses called Blue Tek that filter out blue light.
2. During the day, try to turn your indoor lights off as much as possible.
3. Many smart phones now come equipped with a setting that allows you to turn down the blue intensity of your device. Or you can download a free app called F.LUX that reduces the intensity of the blue light.
”Keep your face always toward the sunshine - and shadows will fall behind you.”
Enjoy the outdoors and stay healthy.