This is the 2nd in a six part blog series on the health effects of electromagnetic frequency (EMF). In the first post, I described thermal related health effects from EMF.

Aside from heat production, there is a common misconception that lower frequencies of EMF, including those used for wireless communication, cannot cause any physical harm. Yet, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of scientific papers from around the world documenting damaging non-thermal health effects from EMF. One important impact is on the sleep-wake cycle.

In the beginning, there was light!

The sun is our solar system’s EMF generator. It produces light along with the gamut of electromagnetic radiation comprising the electromagnetic spectrum. Although gamma rays do not escape the sun’s surface, X-rays and ultraviolet rays make it to Earth where they are absorbed by the atmosphere and ozone layer, respectively. Visible light and lower frequencies of EMF are able to pass through the atmosphere.

At any given time, half the planet receives this energy, while the other half is put into darkness. As the earth rotates, the activities of plants and animals change. All living beings on Earth have biological systems designed to respond to cycles of light and dark. Humans are no exception. We are awake and alert during daylight and sleep when the sky is dark. During slumber, our bodies relax, reassess, and heal. The body’s immune system goes to work during sleep. Cancer cells are suppressed and destroyed.  Injuries are repaired, and life’s puzzles are solved. It is a critical time for  rejuvenation.

Melatonin

One of the most important consequences of sleep is the production of a hormone by the brain’s pineal gland called melatonin. This hormone is produced and released during darkness after prolonged exposure to daylight. Melatonin is critical for a properly functioning immune system, especially during the winter months in the northern latitudes when nights are long and Vitamin D levels are low.

The eyes report ambient light conditions to the pineal gland. If the eyes report that there is light, even dim light, melatonin production and release may be delayed and even suppressed. If, for example, one is sleeping with the television on, even if the eye lids are closed, light will be sensed through the eyelids, and melatonin production and secretion will be delayed or prevented.

Blue frequencies of light suppress melatonin production more dramatically than reddish light. This makes intuitive sense. Bright blue skies tell us it is daytime and readies us for action! The beautiful, calming reddish glow of a setting sun signals us to relax. The day is over.

LED screens on tablets, cell phones, and flat screen TVs produce bluer frequencies of light akin to a blue sky. Watching an LED screen before bedtime including an E-reader, has been shown to suppress and delay melatonin production by over 1.5 hours! .

EMF Suppresses Melatonin Production

Lower frequencies of EMF penetrate the skull and can directly impact pineal gland function and suppress melatonin production just like light. For our pineal gland, living amidst constant EMF emission is like living on a planet where the sun never sets. Melatonin production is dramatically reduced and immune health suffers. It seems that nowadays, human health IS suffering everywhere.

What can you do?

1.  Bask in the sunlight during the daytime hours for at least a few hours. Exposure to daylight is associated with increased melatonin production at night. If you are relegated to the indoors for the better part of the work day and do not have a window in your office, illuminate your work room and/or office with full spectrum lights. Full spectrum and/or blue frequency enriched lights are not ideal, but they may help!

2. Pick a bedtime you can stick with. Over time, your body will adapt to your chosen sleep-wake cycle.

3. Avoid full spectrum lights, blue lights, and LED screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime. So for all you e-book readers, better to read from a real book before bedtime than from an illuminated screen.

4. Choose a warmer reddish bulb for a bedroom lamp rather than a cool blue variety. Light bulbs are now labeled in this manner.

5.  After turning off the lights, make sure there is no ambient light in your bedroom. Any illuminated diodes on equipment should either be unplugged or covered. Have black out liners placed on shades and curtains if light enters your room from outside. If needed, wear a sleep mask to prevent any light from coming into your eyes while sleeping.

6. Turn off all EMF sources. Depending on your location, urban versus rural, this may be more difficult. But, here are a few suggestions. 

  • Place Wifi router on a timer so it automatically shuts off prior to bedtime.
  • If you keep a cell phone in your bedroom while you sleep, place the phone in airplane mode. Otherwise, move the cell phone to another room, far away from your bed.
  • If you suspect there are external sources of EMF entering your bedroom from a nearby cell tower or power line, they will ultimately need to be addressed. Look for further info in future blogs.
  • Consider unplugging lamps, clocks and other appliances next to your bed while you sleep. Circuit breakers supplying electricity to the bedroom can be turned off to cease extremely low frequency (ELF)-EMF emanating from electrical lines within walls and cords.

Pick one modification at a time and work your way through this list. As you do, I am certain you will find yourself having much more restful nights than before. You will be MUCH healthier too!

One final suggestion… 

7. If you have a loved one in the hospital, rehab or nursing facility, provide them with ear plugs and a sleep mask. These health facilities notoriously provide an atmosphere polluted with noise and ambient light, precisely the opposite of what the body needs to heal. A sleep mask will encourage melatonin production and allow their body to heal faster.