Give Yourself an Electronic Break by Dr. Frank Lipman

     Your computer or cell phone may be the reason for your sleeplessness, foggy brain, fatigue, weight gain or inability to lose weight. Humans are photosensitive. Yes, like the leaves on trees. And, like trees, we need natural light and darkness to regulate our systems.

     A day's cycle of early morning light, daytime, dusk and nighttime supports our circadian rhythms or your body's necessary and natural biological pace. In the morning, the light stimulates your metabolism and daytime hormonal functions and sundown triggers the key sleep hormones that help us to fall asleep and stay asleep.

     This is why getting outside in the morning light is important. It wakes your body up, telling it, "It is time to eat, move and be mentally engaged." This is also why having softer light in the evening is key. This signals your body that it is time to stop eating and slow down-physically and mentally. And this is one of the key reasons why most of us feel tired, foggy and even can't lose weight: we are getting blasted with light at all the wrong times and in all the wrong ways.

     Most of us wake up early, often before the sun, to work out or get some last minute work done. Then we spend our days indoors in artificial light only to return home in the dark to blast our eyes with bright TV and computer screens and our bodies with EMF radiation from our cell phones and PDAs. This kind of day has nothing to do with the sun moon cycle or your body's need for natural light and darkness.

     In fact, one of the most detrimental things we can do to our health is to blast our systems with light when our bodies need dark. The light from watching television or working at the computer may prevent our sleeping rhythm from kicking in. In particular, the bright light of a TV or computer may stop our melatonin levels from rising to induce sleep because our body still thinks it is daytime and so it stays in "go mode." 

     You may think of the hormone melatonin simply as an over-the-counter sleep supplement, but it is much more than this. In terms of the body's overall rhythm and health, it plays a key role. Melatonin induces sleep and helps to regulate our body's circadian rhythm, synchronizing our internal body clocks.  It is also a strong and versatile antioxidant. Melatonin boosts the immune system and, some studies show that it can even fight aging.

     As the light from your TV or computer screen can throw your melatonin production off, your cell phone and your computer can also throw your body off with their electro magnetic frequencies (EMF). There is an ever-growing debate about how the EMF radiation from cell phones and wireless computers affect our health. But there is enough evidence now to at least put a little "caution" sticker on them in our minds. Think how tired your mind, eyes and ears are after a long session on a cell phone or computer. That's really all the evidence you need to know that these devices drain your energy.

     Because most of us rely heavily on our electronic devices throughout the day, the best way to limit our exposure to the EMF radiation and support our body's natural need for dark, is to have an electronic sundown. An electronic sundown helps your body prepare for sleep. Most of us move from high speed vertical to bed in a matter of minutes and then wonder why our brains and bodies are vibrating and we can't fall asleep when we are so tired.

     How you prepare for sleep is as important as how you exercise, eat and live during your waking and walking hours. Good sleep leads to a high functioning body that can focus, metabolize food well, and most importantly, feels good!

Here are three ways to improve your bedtime habits so that you will truly sleep like a baby:

     1. Reflect the natural progression of the day. Dim the lights around the house after 8 PM. And don't blast your eyes with artificial computer light or televisions after 10 PM.

     2. Give your body a rest from EMF radiation. Turn off your cell phones, computers, routers and PDAs before going to bed- especially if these devices are in our bedrooms! Note: If you must keep your phone or PDA on, keep them as far away from your head as possible.

     3. Keep your bedroom cool. Turn the thermostat down to 60 or 65 degrees. Sleeping in a cool room reflects our body's own natural rhythm of cooling for sleep. As daylight wanes, the body clock cuts back on the active, energetic hormones, the body temperature begins to fall, our metabolism slows down and we begin to wind down. As the light continues to fade, the body clock signals the pineal gland to convert serotonin into melatonin and we become more lethargic. As melatonin and other sleep hormones increase, our temperature continues to drop, and we start feeling, sleepy!

     Dr. Frank Lipman, author of "SPENT: End Exhaustion and Feel Great Again" (Fireside/Simon & Schuster; January 2009), is the founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City, where his personal blend of Western and alternative medicine has helped thousands of people recover their energy and zest for life.  For more information, visit www.Spentmd.com.