Is your bedroom keeping you awake at night?
A little electronic "feng shui" can help keep EMFs at bay.
A new study in the journal Sleep links insomnia with increased risk of mortality, "a risk that has been underestimated," Penn State scientists say. Recent California research suggests why you need your sleep: Insomnia has been linked to anxiety and depression, diabetes and heart disease, as well as accidents, daytime sleepiness and decreased workplace productivity.
The hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, melatonin, also regulates essential immune and inflammatory processes that help explain its importance in overall health. Melatonin is produced in the pineal gland, a tiny pinecone-shaped structure the size of a pea that's buried deep inside the brain.
Interestingly, Italian researchers report that this hormone may promote early inflammation - the kind that helps heal acute problems - but also contributes to chronic inflammation - the type linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Scientists at Tulane University School of Medicine also show that blood levels of this hormone significantly decline as we age - specifically in the 5th and 6th decades of life - at exactly the same time that breast cancer incidence increases. Scarier still, dozens of studies show that even low levels of EMFs can depress the body's production of melatonin.
Dr. Ann Louise's take:
I was shocked some months ago when an EMF remediator discovered high levels of electropollution in my home's master bedroom. He assured me this is not at all unusual - given all the electronics and electrical devices people have today, your bedroom may be keeping you awake at night too!
This is where you should be spending at least eight hours a night sleeping. If (instead) you're tossing and turning, unnatural voltage in your body - produced by the wiring in your walls, extension cords, electrical appliances and electronic devices - may be the problem.
Because your body restores itself when you sleep - producing between 80 and 90 percent of its supply of melatonin at night - you can't be too scrupulous about reducing the sources of electropollution in your bedroom. Here are some of the tips and techniques I offer in my latest book Zapped.
Electronic "Feng Shui"
Clear the clutter - electronically speaking. Get the cell or cordless phone, computer, PDA, sound system and TV - even the clock radio - out of the bedroom if you want to sleep soundly at night. They all emit alternating current (AC) magnetic fields that interfere with your body's production of the antioxidant hormone melatonin. If you must have a "white noise" sound machine to sleep, keep it at least three feet from your bed.
Unplug your electric blanket before you crawl into bed. It can produce very large AC electric and magnetic fields that have been linked to infertility. A heated water bed creates similar problems. Be aware that metal - much like water - transmits electric fields, so you'll want to replace your metal spring mattress or bed frame with something less conductive - like a futon.
Use a battery-powered or windup alarm clock. If you forget to wind it or can't keep up with battery changing, move your electric clock or clock radio at least 6 feet from your head. And no matter what - don't use your Blackberry or cell phone as an alarm clock!
If your bedroom is on the second floor, you probably can't escape electrical wiring, which is in the floor. Some people turn off the power to the bedroom at night - to guarantee sound sleep. If you can't do that (or if your smoke detector is hardwired to the circuit, you don't want to cut the power), position your bed so your head isn't near a power outlet.
Make sure no beds back up to the same wall as your refrigerator. The fridge creates one of the largest magnetic fields in your house - and a wall simply won't block these EMFs. Is there an overhead fan - or fluorescent lighting - in the ceiling below your bed? The AC magnetic fields produced by these fans and lights are actually higher in the rooms above them!
Also keep your baby's and children's bedrooms as EMF free as possible. Remove all electronic games, equipment and monitors. Remember that little ones - with their smaller size and thinner skulls - are far more vulnerable to electromagnetic fields than we are! To learn more about protecting your family in your own home, go to www.areyouzapped.com and www.buildingbiology.net.
Live near a cell tower or have an electrical transformer outside your bedroom? Paint the walls (interior and exterior) with special EMF-shielding paints - made with carbon, copper, nickel and silver - that can be applied like regular paint and then covered with whatever color latex or water-based paint you prefer. I did this in my master bedroom and home office - and not only do I sleep much better now but I'm also more focused!
The Melatonin Connection
While a little feng shui in the bedroom can make a big difference, you'll get zapped again once you leave this sanctuary. Even minimal EMF exposure has been linked to sleep disturbances and immune-system suppression, so what happens during the day also affects melatonin production and your health.
Besides helping to fight insomnia, melatonin bolsters the immune system by increasing the activity of two other potent antioxidants - glutathione and superoxide dismutase (SOD). Recent research suggests a link between low levels of SOD and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also called Lou Gehrig's disease. This fatal disorder of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which leads to total paralysis, has been traced to occupational EMF exposure, and some researchers suspect the missing link is melatonin.
That's not all this antioxidant hormone does. People with cancer, AIDS and other serious diseases have severely depleted levels of glutathione - the other antioxidant that melatonin supports. Like most antioxidants, glutathione gives up an extra electron to free radical molecules, rendering them benign. So you need melatonin to allow glutathione to regain its antioxidant status - helping it live to fight another day.
With less circulating melatonin, the body becomes more vulnerable to free radical damage and a host of related disorders, ranging from cancer (particularly melanoma and malignancies of the breast, ovary and prostate) and heart disease to neurological conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Antioxidant melatonin also stimulates TSH, the thyroid hormones that control your metabolism, which may explain why sleep-deprived people tend to be overweight. Radiation - including EMFs - zero in on the thyroid gland as though it were painted with a target. Electropollution from cell phones can diminish the body's production of thyroid hormones, which leads to depression, fatigue, joint pain and muscle cramps - symptoms of both thyroid dysfunction and electrosensitivity.
EMFs aren't the only reason for decreased melatonin production, though. As the Tulane study shows, levels of this critical antioxidant hormone naturally decline with age. I recommend 3 mg. Melatonin in a time-released form - particularly if you're over 60 years of age. Recent research in the journal BMC Medicine reports that prolonged release supplements - as licensed in Europe and other countries for people 55 and older - are both safe and effective. One of my Zapped All-Star Supplements, UNI KEY's Melatonin contains added manganese, selenium and zinc for optimal antioxidant protection.
If you decide to have your melatonin levels tested, be sure to do it at night. Production of this antioxidant hormone peaks between 2 and 4 a.m., which is why it's so important to make your bedroom as EMF-free as possible.
• Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution
Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman is the award-winning author of more than 30 books on health and nutrition and guest on many TV and radio programs. She resides in Kootenai County. Information: annlouise.com