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Listen to What Your Eyes Are Trying to Tell You

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

You may have heard it before: All that screen time in front of your laptop or phone can disrupt your sleep patterns. It’s true. It can. But did you know that one reason why it’s hard to go to sleep is that light-sensitive cells in your retina — which help regulate your circadian rhythm — have become confused by the screen light?


According to Eurekalert, a new study suggests that these cells, which regulate consciousness, sleep and alertness, play a pivotal role in maintaining melatonin, which is responsible for regulating sleep. So, when they’re exposed to prolonged exposure to repeated long pulses of light, such as that emitted by your laptop screen, they become desensitized to the point that they don’t know to shut off and let you go to sleep.

Even though this study was on mice rather than humans, it still confirms that the more time you spend on electronic devices during the day — but especially at night — the longer it takes to fall asleep, and the less sleep you get overall. That it’s your eyes that may be telling you this is not surprising; our eyes are made to work with light and darkness, and it goes without saying they need a break from the light, particularly artificial lighting.

Every organ and individual cells in your body contain biological "clocks" that regulate everything from metabolism to psychological functioning. Even half your genes have been shown to be under circadian control, turning on and off in cyclical waves.

All these body clocks are synchronized to your master circadian clock, situated in your brain, which in turn is synchronized to the rising and setting of the sun, provided you don't confuse it with artificial lighting at night and/or insufficient sunlight during the day, that is. Over the long term, skimping on sleep — which is a surefire way to dysregulate your circadian body clock — can contribute to a whole host of chronic health problems.

While sleep problems can be caused or exacerbated by a number of different factors, many of which are covered in "Want a Good Night's Sleep? Then Never Do These Things Before Bed," three of particular importance — primarily because they're so frequently overlooked — are your sleep position, light pollution and exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF).

Of course, conquering light pollution is a huge factor in increasing your likelihood of getting quality sleep. Aside from electronic screens, LEDs and fluorescent lights are particularly troublesome as they emit blue light that is not balanced by red and near infrared frequencies.

Importantly, LEDs may promote age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness. To learn more about this, please see my interview with Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a world class expert on photobiology.

If you choose to watch TV after sunset, then you must be particularly cautious as most new TVs are "smart," meaning they communicate wirelessly by Wi-Fi and it is impossible to turn off. Fortunately, there is a simple solution. You can use a computer monitor for your screen, which does not have a Wi-Fi signal.

Even better would be to watch TV through a computer that is hooked up with a wired Ethernet and is in airplane mode. The advantage of doing this is that you can use a blue light screen blocker. Iris is the absolute best one and I have used it for many years.

If you use Iris at night, you won't need blue blocking glasses. If you are unable to hook your monitor to a TV, then you will need to use the glasses. While blue light blockers work, glasses with red lenses actually work even better, as they not only block blue light but also yellow and green.

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