13 Proven Ways Saunas Can Improve Your Mental Health

When it comes to improving your mental health, some of the simplest strategies can have a huge impact.

Using a sauna regularly is one of them.

Infrared saunas in particular are becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. 

They have a number of brain and mental health benefits, as discussed in the book Sauna Therapy by Dr. Lawrence Wilson.

However, you don’t necessarily need an infrared sauna to experience health benefits. Even traditional saunas – available at most public gyms, spas and health centres – have a number of beneficial cognitive and psychological effects. 

Once you start using a sauna, you should listen to your body to determine how much time you should spend in it. Start out slowly and increase the length of your sessions over time. Also make sure to drink lots of water before and after each session, and never consume alcohol in combination.

Read on to learn about the 13 ways traditional and infrared saunas can improve your brain and mental health.

Illustration of man sitting in a sauna, improving his mental health one minute at a time.

1. Saunas Improve Mood and Reduce Depression

Saunas can really help people that struggle with depression.

Lots of research shows that they can make you feel euphoric. Saunas are somewhat stressful on the body, so your brain produces and releases more euphoric hormones to deal with it (53-55).

And these changes appear to be semi-permanent (56). 

So if you use a sauna regularly, you'll end up being consistently happy. 

Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, has completed two studies in which he had people with major depression sit in an infrared sauna.

Woman with hands up in the air, sun setting in the background.

In his first study, the participants had just one infrared sauna treatment and it reduced their symptoms by about 50%.

In his follow-up study, he found that a single session caused a rapid and powerful antidepressant effect, and the benefits continued for six weeks, which was unexpected. 

He concluded that whole-body hyperthermia holds promise as a safe, rapid-acting, antidepressant treatment with a prolonged therapeutic benefit (57-58). 

Other researchers have looked at the effects of infrared sauna therapy on mildly depressed patients with fatigue, appetite loss, and mental complaints. They found that sauna treatment significantly increased their appetite and reduced their mental complaints (59). 

Whole-body heat therapy has also been shown to reduce depression in cancer patients (60-61).

And other research shows that sweating increases mental satisfaction and energy (62). 

2. Saunas Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Not surprisingly, saunas can also reduce stress and anxiety.

Several studies have shown that regular sauna use lowers levels of cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone (49-52). 

In one study, researchers found that using a sauna can reduce both state and trait anxiety (48).

And other research shows that sweating increases relaxation, and reduces feelings of frustration and anxiety (62). 

Here are 21 other ways to reduce cortisol and increase your resilience to stress.

3. Saunas Increase Beta-Endorphins, Relieve Pain and Help Treat Fibromyalgia

Beta-endorphins are pain-relieving compounds that originate within your body. 

Your brain produces and releases these natural painkillers during times of strenuous exercise, emotional stress and pain.

Since saunas are a stressor, the release of endorphins are increased when you spend time in one.

Illustration of person in pain. Saunas can help reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Several studies have shown that heat stress and heat exposure in a dry sauna cause a significant increase in beta-endorphin levels (28-32). 

This may explain why research shows that sauna therapy can lessen the pain experienced by patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic syndrome characterized by widespread pain with tenderness in specific areas.

In one study, people with fibromyalgia experienced a 33 to 77 per cent reduction in pain after using an infrared sauna regularly. Six months after the study was done, the participants still reported a 28 to 66 per cent reduction in pain (35). 

Other researchers have found the same thing and concluded that infrared sauna therapy is effective for the treatment of fibromyalgia (33-34). 

Another way to relieve pain is by taking DL-Phenylalanine. It’s an amino acid that inhibits the breakdown of endorphins. I previously wrote about it here, and you can get it here.

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4. Saunas Increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF)

A cartoon brain with arms and legs, lifting weights over its head. Saunas increase BDNF.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a naturally-occurring protein in the brain that lowers your risk of mental disease and improves your mood. It does this by protecting and repairing your brain cells and increasing the growth of new brain cells. Many researchers consider it a natural antidepressant because it can reduce anxiety and depression (5-13, 15).

Research suggests that if you struggle with mental illness, you likely have reduced levels of BDNF. But luckily, there are ways to boost it.

Using a sauna is one of the ways. 

Research shows that heat exposure increases the expression of BDNF (14). 

I previously provided 21 other ways to boost BDNF in this post

5. Saunas Increase Norepinephrine Levels and May Help Treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Norepinephrine, also called noradrenaline, is a hormone and neurotransmitter in the brain that can help with focus and attention.

An illustration of a man’s mind being open with lots of arrows. Saunas can help reduce symptoms of ADHD.

Numerous studies have found that sauna use significantly increases norepinepherine levels (39-42). 

In one study, women spent 20 minutes in a sauna, two times each week, and researchers witnessed an 86% increase in norepinephrine (43). 

In another study, men that stayed in a sauna until exhaustion increased their norepinephrine levels by 310% (44-45). 

Besides increasing norepinephrine, heat stress also increases your body’s ability to store norepinephrine for later release (46). 

Medications that increase the reuptake norepinephrine are often prescribed to people with ADHD, so researchers believe that sauna therapy should be considered as an alternative treatment (47). 

6. Saunas Encourage the Growth of Myelin

Myelin is a fatty, white substance that wraps around the end of many nerve cells. It forms an electrically insulating sheath that increases nerve condition speeds.

In other words, it allows your brain to send information faster and more efficiently, making it absolutely essential for the optimal functioning of your nervous system.

Illustration of myelin sheath.

Heat stress increases prolactin, a hormone that promotes the production of myelin (16-19). 

In one study, researchers had healthy young men stay in a sauna until they were exhausted, and they reported a 10-fold increase in prolactin (20-11). 

In another study, women spent 20 minutes sauna, two times each week, and researchers witnessed a 510% increase in prolactin (22). 

I previously provided 25 other ways to promote the growth of myelin in this post

Other than using a sauna, my favourite way to increase myelin is by taking this lion’s mane mushroom supplement. It’s helped me a lot. You can get it here or here

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7. Saunas Reduce the Risk of Dementia

Dementia is obviously a major concern today. 

It’s the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cardiovascular disease and cancer, and by 2050, it’s estimated that 13 million Americans and 160 million people globally will be affected by the disease (63).

There is currently a lack of effective treatment options, so simple tools to help with prevention are crucial.

A young woman and elderly woman laughing and smiling. Saunas can help reduce the risk of dementia.

It turns out that sauna therapy may be one of these tools.

Researchers tracked the health of more than 2,300 men in Finland for about 20 years. The men who used a sauna four to seven times each week had a 66 percent lower chance of developing dementia than men who used a sauna just once a week (64-68). 

We have taken into account other lifestyle factors, like physical activity and socioeconomic factors. There is an independent effect of sauna.
— Dr. Jari Laukkanen, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland

I previously provided some other ways to reverse cognitive decline and dementia in this post

Intranasal insulin can also help. 

8. Saunas Reduce Psychological Symptoms of Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa, or simply known as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by a low weight, fear of gaining weight, a strong desire to be thin, and food restriction.

Researchers have examined the effects of sweating on anorexia and reported positive effects on hyperactivity, depression, and stress levels (27). 

9. Saunas Reduce Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex, incapacitating illness. It affects millions of people around the world and may affect up to 4 million people in the United States alone. 

People struggling with this disorder not only have unrelenting fatigue lasting for 6 months or more, but also memory and concentration deficits, sleep disturbances, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and gastrointestinal and immune system dysfunction.

A woman holds her forehead, struggling with fatigue. Saunas can help reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome.

One study found that infrared sauna sessions significantly reduce fatigue in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. It also significantly reduced their anxiety and depression (23). 

I've had some clients with chronic fatigue say that their doctor recommended they stay out of the sun and avoid exposing themselves to too much heat. But the above study didn't find any negative effects in chronic fatigue patients from regular infrared sauna sessions (23). 

Another study found that daily infrared sauna sessions dramatically improved symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, including fatigue, pain and sleep disturbances. The patients in the study didn’t improve with prednisolone, a steroid medication, but did improve with sauna therapy (24).

So if you struggle with chronic fatigue, infrared sauna therapy is definitely worth looking into. 

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10. Saunas Reduce Tension Headaches

"Chronic tension-type headache" is a syndrome characterized by frequent headaches that occur more than 15 days every month. 

The intensity and duration of the headaches can be very distressing and disabling and affect a person's well-being.

But research shows that regular sauna use is a simple, self-directed treatment that is effective for reducing headache pain intensity (26). 

11. Saunas Help Eliminate Heavy Metals

Some of the benefits of sauna usage occur because of increased sweating. 

Many people don’t sweat very much, and this can cause problems because your skin acts as an important route of detoxification and helps you excrete heavy metals that are so prevalent in your modern environment. Common heavy metals in our environment include cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury (36, 37). 

A diagram demonstrating the negative effects of heavy metals on the body. Regular sauna use can help your body excrete heavy metals.

Lack of sweating may actually result in increased toxic load over time, which can negatively affect your brain and mental health.

Research shows that mercury poisoning from dental amalgam affects the mind and emotions and plays a role in the development of mental illness (1). 

But by sweating frequently in a sauna, you can enhance your detoxification pathways and help your body remove mercury (2, 4). 

In fact, studies show that high mercury levels can be reduced to normal levels by using a sauna repeatedly (3). 

Researchers have concluded that “sweat-inducing sauna use can provide a therapeutic method to increase elimination of toxic trace metals and should be the initial and preferred treatment of patients with elevated mercury levels” (38). 

Sweating offers potential and deserves consideration to assist with removal of toxic elements from the body.
— Researchers writing in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health

12. Saunas Increase Deep Sleep

Getting high-quality deep sleep is critical for optimal brain function and mental health. 

And using a sauna regularly is one way to improve it. 

Researchers in Finland report that sauna use is one of the factors that can result in deeper, more restful sleep (25). 

Some other ways to promote sleep include blocking out blue light before bed, taking this sleep supplement, lying on an acupressure mat, supplementing with magnesium, collagen and melatonin if necessary, and blacking  out your room with curtains or wearing a sleep mask.

13. Saunas Support Thyroid Function

Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck below your Adam’s apple, and lots of research shows that thyroid dysfunction can contribute to mental health problems

One of the main threats to the health of your thyroid is non-biological halogens. These include bromine, fluorine, chlorine, and perchlorate, which are often found in tap water.

An illustration showing the thyroid gland.

Your thyroid doesn’t know the difference these halogens and iodine, a trace mineral necessary for proper thyroid function.

Your thyroid soaks up the halogens and uses them like iodine. By occupying iodine receptors, they inhibit the production of your thyroid hormones, and contribute to thyroid dysfunction.

But don’t worry – sauna use can help your body excrete halogens (69). 

The more you can excrete the halogens, the more your body will be able to use iodine to produce thyroid hormones.

I also recommend reducing your exposure by filtering your drinking and shower water. Brita filters aren't enough because they don’t remove fluoride. I use this Berkey water filter to make sure I’m drinking the purest water available. It filters everything out of the water. I also use this filter to remove chlorine from my shower water. 

Check out this post for more ways to support your thyroid. 

Conclusion

As you can see, saunas have a number of beneficial effects on the brain and can help you manage and overcome your mental health challenges. 

I’ve been doing a lot of research into saunas recently and have concluded that infrared saunas have additional benefits and are much more gentle and effective than the traditional “hot rock” saunas.

Unfortunately, most infrared saunas emit unsafe levels of electromagnetic fields (EMFs).

However, I did find a company that has a patent on low-EMF infrared saunas. Their saunas are also very well built and have a lifetime warranty. So I'm going to go with one of their saunas. You can get one here

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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About the Author

Jordan Fallis is a health and science journalist and researcher, and the founder of Optimal Living Dynamics, a website that has helped more than 1.5 million people improve their brain and mental health. His work has been featured in the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Pharmacists Journal. Jordan has also interviewed, consulted, and worked with more than one hundred medical doctors, health practitioners and leading researchers. He spends a lot of time scouring medical research, writing about what he finds, and putting the theories to the test on himself.

References:

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(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3312275/

(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3218899/

(5) http://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2009/624894/abs/

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2504526/

(7) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006322303001811

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(19) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00691246

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11165553

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2759081

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(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25748743

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(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3363395

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25636135

(27) http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0041851

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11165553

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(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3002937

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8061252

(32) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3218898

(33) https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/internalmedicine/47/16/47_16_1473/_pdf

(34) https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/internalmedicine/47/16/47_16_1473/_article

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21742283

(36) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/184745/

(37) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/184745/

(38) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jeph/2012/184745/

(39) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2759081

(40) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2830109

(41) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00691246

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(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4008413

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12621106

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18396259

(49) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3788622

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(56) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9103537

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(58) http://blogs.webmd.com/mental-health/2016/07/can-sitting-in-a-sauna-ease-depression.html

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(60) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1607735

(61) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/02656739209021785?journalCode=ihyt20

(62) http://digital.library.okstate.edu/etd/umi-okstate-1543.pdf

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(68) https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201612/frequent-sauna-use-may-reduce-risk-dementia-study-finds

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Blake Gibb, MD

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Why Sleeping in the Woods for 11 Days Improved My Mental Health

You often hear that modern life is making us sick.

It’s true. A lot of people are suffering from diseases of civilization – including neurodegenerative and psychiatric illnesses – because there is a mismatch between our ancient physiology and the western diet and lifestyle (1). 

Most people are aware of some of the causes – poor dietary choices, nutrient deficiencies, excess stress, emotional trauma, lack of exercise, etc. 

But what if there was something in our modern environment that we couldn’t see that was making us sick?

Well, over the past several months, I’ve been learning more and more about the brain and mental health effects of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs). 

They’re actually a huge problem.

An increasing amount of scientific research is showing that they can cause widespread neuropsychiatric effects, including depression (2).

Learning about this inspired me to go live in the woods for 11 days. Yes, I’m serious :-) 

Read on to learn more about EMFs and my experience getting completely away from them. 

An illustration demonstrating EMFs in our environment.

Researchers and Doctors Are Sounding the Alarm about the Brain and Mental Health Effects of EMFs

“I have no doubt in my mind that at the present time, the greatest polluting element in the earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields. I consider that to be far greater on a global scale, than warming, and the increase in chemical elements in the environment.” – Dr. Robert Becker, MD, two-time Nobel nominee, and author of The Body Electric: Electromagnetism and the Foundation of Life

Man-made EMFs emitted by cellphones, Wi-Fi internet, and radio are considered radiofrequency (RF) EMFs. 

People can experience a wide range of brain and mental health symptoms from these EMFs, including EEG changes, sleep disturbance/insomnia, depression, headache, tinnitus, brain fog, dizziness, listlessness, irritability, malaise, restlessness/anxiety, fatigue/tiredness, concentration/attention dysfunction, memory and thinking difficulties

This has been well documented in European countries. The prevalence of EMF sensitivity in Sweden, Switzerland and Austria have been reported to be 1.5%, 3.5% and 5% respectively (2, 3, 7). 

But I suspect the amount of people who are struggling with the negative effects of EMFs is actually higher because most people are simply not aware of the problem. 

As of March 22, 2017, 225 scientists from 42 countries have signed a letter that urges the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and governments around the world to develop stricter controls on devices that emit EMFs. Altogether, these scientists have published more than 2,000 peer-reviewed papers demonstrating the biological and health effects of radiofrequency EMFs.

As a result of the increasing amount of research demonstrating the risk of EMFs, the World Health Organization has now reclassified radiofrequency EMFs as a “class 2B carcinogen”, which places it in the same carcinogenic class as lead and the pesticide DDT (4).

Some European countries have also taken action in response. Switzerland has replaced the wireless internet in schools with wired internet. In Germany, the public health department is recommending their citizens switch off WiFi when they are not using it. And Italy, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Israel, Russia and China all have set limits on radiofrequency exposure that are 100 to 10,000 times lower than US standards (5, 6). 

Meanwhile, the United States rushes forward with the wireless revolution and the looming rollout of 5G

What about in Canada? Not much has been done here either, even though more than 50 Canadian doctors and researchers have demanded that Health Canada raise awareness about EMFs, update their EMF guidelines, and provide resources  to assist Canadian physicians in treating people with EMF sensitivity. 

Dr. Riina Bray, medical director of the Environmental Health Clinic at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, has even stood in front of Canadian Parliament to bring awareness to this issue. She says:

Individuals who are sensitive to EMF, or those with electromagnetic hypersensitivity, are canaries in a coal mine and lucky enough to have discovered what it is that is making them feel unwell. Many of them find everyday life and work difficult and uncomfortable. Most often we see them with family members who thought the patient had gone mad, but then realized that what they were saying was actually true, through observations.

The question that continues to alarm me is this. What of those who have not yet become sensitized, or those who are unwell but have not realized it is the EMFs provoking the problem and continue to try to function in an environment where the electrical and magnetic fields are high?

As a physician who has specialized in the area of environmental health for over 20 years, I am mortified at the lack of accountability regarding radio and microwave radiation use in the everyday lives of Canadians both young and old. There are no longitudinal studies except the one going on right now on people who did not ask to be subjects, who gave no research ethics board consent, and on whom data is not being collected. That is not a study at all.
— Dr. Riina Bray

I highly recommend you read the full transcript here. It is eye opening.

Dr. Jack Kruse, author of author of the book Epi-Paleo Rx, also talks about the risks of man-made EMFs extensively.

And these three books discuss the issue. I just started reading the first one: 

Lastly, I highly recommend watching this TV special if you're interested in hearing more experts talk about the effects of man-made EMFs:

My Experience

Two functional medicine practitioners have confirmed that I’m particularly sensitive to EMFs. 

I live and work in the city, so I bought this EMF meter to figure out the amount of EMFs I was being exposed to in my environment. 

Pathway leading toward's the cottage property.

Pathway leading toward's the cottage property.

The result? Lots of radiofrequency EMFs where I spend most of my time, including my downtown apartment. 

However, my family has a cottage property about 1.5 hours away from the city. It’s just a cabin in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, away from civilization. 

So, I recently went there with my meter to measure the levels.

The result? Dead air. Zero radiofrequency EMFs. 

I thought my meter was broken because I’m so used to it displaying a yellow or red warning signal in the city. But at the cottage property, it was green. 

So, for 11 days, I lived at this property. I’ve been very quiet on social media because of this.

I had my phone off, the Wi-Fi was off the entire time, and I connected to the Internet only sparingly using an Ethernet cable

I even went to the electrical panel in the basement and cut the power supply on the circuit breaker sometimes, particularly right before I went to bed. 

What did I experience from this experiment?

  • Deeper, more restful sleep – I usually never dream or remember any dreams. But I had very vivid dreams and remembered them the next morning while in the woods. This rarely happens. The last time this happened, it was when I was doing neurofeedback. I’ve since learned that neurofeedback is protective against EMFs and helps people cope with EMFs [because EMFs alter electrical activity in the brain (18-23)].

  • Complete elimination of coffee

  • Reduction in the amount of supplements I had to take – In the city, I usually need to manage some lingering symptoms with supplements and other therapies. But these symptoms faded when I completely removed myself from EMFs.

  • More mental energy and endurance

  • Increased focus

A deer I saw on my trip away from the city.

A deer I saw on my trip away from the city.

Of course, there could be other factors at play and this could have been placebo, but I really don’t think so considering the huge difference in my sleep quality and the amount of dreams I could vividly recall the next morning.

Some people may be skeptical of all this, so let me lay out some of the research showing that EMFs can affect brain function and impact mental health.

Research in Russia shows that much of the impact from EMFs occurs in the brain and nervous system, and 26 studies have associated EMFs with 13 different neuropsychiatric effects (2). 

Below are 15 specific ways EMFs can affect your brain and mental health. 

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1. EMFs Damage Myelin

Myelin is a fatty, white substance that wraps around the end of many nerve cells. It forms an electrically insulating sheath that increases nerve condition speeds. 

Myelin sheath.

In other words, it allows your brain to send information faster and more efficiently, making it absolutely essential for the optimal functioning of your nervous system.

This research paper explains that there is an association between EMFs and the deterioration of myelin.

The researchers say there is "an association between RF-EMF exposure and either myelin deterioration or a direct impact on neuronal conduction, which may account for many electro-hypersensitivity symptoms” (9). 

I previously provided 25 proven ways to promote the regeneration of myelin.

My favourite way to regenerate myelin is by taking this lion’s mane mushroom supplement. It’s helped me a lot. You can get it here or here

2. EMFs Reduce Cognitive Function

While I was away from the city, my cognitive function improved. I found that it was easier to read quickly. 

In 2009, researchers looked at whether EMFs emitted by cellphones would affect cognitive function.

They found that the participants that were exposed to cellphone radiation demonstrated slower response times during a working memory task (8). 

3. EMFs Contribute to Bipolar Disorder

Smiley faces. EMFs may contribute to bipolar disorder.

I couldn’t find any scientific research demonstrating that EMFs cause or worsen bipolar disorder.

However, I did find an amazing case study from someone named Carmen in Virginia Beach.

She explains that limiting her exposure to EMFs significantly improved her symptoms of bipolar disorder:

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003. 

I have always taken my medications and still even with great doctors and family support, I was not able to avoid the mental hospital in 2010. 

In 2014, I started to have some odd health issues that resembled symptoms of a stroke. 

It took many months but I was able to identify the root of my symptoms: fluorescent lights, cell towers, WIFI, my cell phone and other things too. 

Nobody listened because I have a pre-existing mental condition and attributed some of my symptoms to panic attacks and OCD.

I had to stop working in due to the severity of my symptoms and I had to do a lot of changes in my house, changed WIFI for a hardwire connection straight to the router from computer, changed our home cordless phone for old fashion corded one and all my family stopped using cell phones in the house. I also had to change light bulbs and some other things. 

I realized my cell phone on my night table had been keeping me up at night because all of a sudden, I had no trouble sleeping anymore.

Now I can focus on things, I am no longer confused or forgetful, and I am not hyperactive.

Most important of all, I have not had any periods of mania, depression or hypomania since I reduced my exposures to electromagnetic fields.

You can read her entire story here

It's important to note that she mentions that she also experienced symptoms from fluorescent lights and had to change the light bulbs in her home. 

This is likely because of the negative health effects of blue LED lighting, which I previously wrote about here

4. EMFs Alter Brain Proteins

Research shows that long-term exposure to EMFs significantly alters the expression of 143 proteins in the brain. 

What does this mean to us?

Researchers explain that these changes may affect brain plasticity, increase oxidative stress in the nervous system, and may explain conditions such as headaches, sleep disturbance, fatigue, memory deficits, and brain tumors (13). 

5. EMFs Increase Anxiety

Research clearly shows that radiation from wireless technology affects the autonomic nervous system and increases anxiety and stress.

EMFs increase anxiety.

In particular, it can lead to neurotic disturbances by upregulating the sympathetic nervous and downregulating the parasympathetic nervous system (15, 17). 

In other words, it can directly increase your “fight-or-flight” response, making you chronically stressed and anxious. 

And researchers are making it clear that it’s not just “in the person’s head”. One report explains that the response to “electrosmog is physiological and not psychosomatic”. In other words, it’s really affecting the person's body. 

Unfortunately, “those who experience prolonged and severe EMF hypersensitivity may end up developing psychological problems”, stress-related behaviours and anxiety disorders due to their inability to work, and the social stigma that their symptoms are imagined rather than real (15, 16). 

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6. EMFs Affect Neurotransmitters

EMFs also affect neurotransmitters, the chemicals that communicate information throughout your brain.

One study found that radiation from cellphones significantly disrupts levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. 

The researchers concluded that this may be why people report that they experience stress, memory problems and learning difficulties from EMF exposure (14). 

7. EMFs Affect Thyroid Function

Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck below your Adam’s apple.

An illustration showing the location of the thyroid gland.

As I discussed before, your thyroid gland plays a key role in the optimal health and functioning of your brain. It can impact your cognition, concentration, mood, memory and emotions.

Researchers have found that EMF exposure can affect the structure and functioning of the thyroid gland (10). 

One study found that heavy cellphone users have higher than normal TSH levels, and lower than normal T4 levels. These abnormal levels are linked to thyroid dysfunction and hypothyroidism (low thyroid) (11). 

Here are some of the brain and mental health symptoms of low thyroid that I’ve experienced:

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Brain fog

  • Low mood

  • Forgetfulness

  • Weakness

  • Sluggishness

Not surprisingly, these are also common symptoms of EMF hypersensitivity.

Check out this post for ways to support your thyroid.

My favourite way is by applying this red and infrared light to my thyroid. 

8. EMFs Increase Risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is characterized by inattention and hyperactivity.

Yale researchers have determined that cellphone use during pregnancy affects the brain development of offspring, and this can lead to symptoms of ADHD in the children once they are born (12). 

This is the first experimental evidence that fetal exposure to radiofrequency radiation from cellular telephones does in fact affect adult behaviour. The rise in behavioral disorders in human children may be in part due to fetal cellular telephone irradiation exposure.
— Dr. Hugh Taylor, MD

9. EMFs May Worsen Symptoms of Autism

A report published in the journal Pathophysiology points out that autism involves many biological disturbances that are very similar to the physiological impacts of EMFs and radiofrequency radiation.

The researchers even say that reducing EMF exposure might reduce symptoms of autism.

With dramatic increases in reported autism that are coincident in time with the deployment of wireless technologies, we need an aggressive investigation of potential Autism/EMF/RFR links. The evidence is sufficient to warrant new public exposure standards benchmarked to low-intensity (non-thermal) exposure levels now known to be biologically disruptive, and strong, interim precautionary practices are advocated.

10. EMFs Reduce Melatonin and Disrupt Sleep

Melatonin is a hormone released by your pineal gland, a small gland in your brain. It helps control your sleep and wake cycles (circadian rhythm), and adequate levels of melatonin are necessary to fall asleep quickly and sleep deeply throughout the night.

Melatonin acts as a very potent antioxidant in your brain and can protect against a number of neurodegenerative and mental health conditions (26). 

Reduced levels of melatonin are associated with depression and suicide, seasonally affective disorder (SAD), schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease (24). 

Cellphone next to a woman sleeping. EMFs negatively affect sleep.

Unfortunately, 17 independent studies have found that EMFs disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and natural production of melatonin, leading to sleep difficulties and many adverse health effects (25, 27-31). 

Researchers say that the evidence is “substantial and robust” and “there is a sound scientific basis for concluding that” acute and chronic EMF exposure lowers melatonin production, leading to very serious health effects, including depression (25, 32). 

That’s why you should turn off all Wi-Fi before bed. I live in a downtown apartment with lots of radiation coming from all the apartments around me, which likely explains why I slept so much better in the woods.

Other than supplementing with melatonin, here are some actions you can take to naturally produce more melatonin and improve the quality of your sleep:

  • Expose your eyes to sun in the morning

  • Supplement with magnesium and collagen before bed. This pre-made bone broth is a really good source of collagen.

  • Lie on this acupressure mat for 10 minutes before bed

  • Turn off household lights or get red light bulbs, install Iris on your computer and/or wear blue blocking glasses as soon as it's dark outside. These glasses block out blue light in your environment. Blue light suppresses your body’s production of melatonin. You can read more about the problem with blue light here.

  • Go to bed at the same time every night

  • Don’t eat for 3 hours before bed

  • Completely black out room with curtains and wear sleep mask.

  • Take this sleep supplement, which contains magnesium and a number of other natural compounds that I’ve used over the years to promote the production of melatonin. You can use the coupon code FIVE$45496275 for a 5% discount.

Click here to subscribe

11. EMFs Increase Brain Tumors

The National Toxicology Program conducted a large, complex, two-year study on the potential health hazards of cellphone use. They found that RF and EMF exposure increases brain tumors in rats, mice, and humans (50-51). 

Sweden researchers have also published a meta-analysis showing a significant association between long-term cellphone use and both malignant and benign brain tumors (52). 

12. EMFs Disrupt the Blood-Brain Barrier

The blood-brain barrier is a protective shield that surrounds your brain. It acts as a gatekeeper and filter, allowing beneficial nutrients to cross over into your brain, and keeping unwanted molecules out of your brain.

A leaky brain. EMFs disrupt the blood-brain barrier.

In his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working, Dr. Datis Kharrazian explains that the blood-brain barrier can break down and become “leaky”. This allows harmful substances to enter your brain, contributing to brain inflammation, which has been shown to cause cognitive problems and mental illness.

A number of factors contribute to “leaky brain”, including electromagnetic fields. 

Radiofrequency EMFs emitted from cellphones have been shown to increase the permeability of the brain-blood barrier in several studies (33-34). 

And this increased permeability may lead to the accumulation of brain tissue damage and cognitive impairment (33, 35). 

I previously provided ways to support and repair the blood-brain barrier in this post

My favourite way is by drinking this high-quality coffee

13. EMFs Increase Risk of Depression and Suicide

About 10 studies have reported an association between exposure to EMFs and depression (36, 37). 

A woman with depression. EMFs contribute to the rising rates of depression.

In a few of those studies, researchers found a specific correlation between living near a cellphone base station and severity of depressive symptoms (38-40). 

In another study, researchers looked at personnel at the U.S. embassy in Moscow who were exposed to EMFs, and they found that there was a statistically significant increase in depression (41). 

People working around radiofrequency EMFs are also more likely to suffer from depression and commit suicide (42-45). 

A good way to combat this is by supplementing with rhodiola. I previously wrote about how it’s a good antidepressant, but it’s been shown to be radioprotective as well (60-62). 

14. EMFs Increase Free Radicals and Oxidative Stress  

Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells and contribute to brain damage, aging and mental disease (46-47). 

Oxidative stress is when there is an altered balance between free radicals and their elimination by antioxidants.

After an extensive literature review, researchers have concluded that EMF exposure increases levels of free radicals and oxidative stress in the body, leading to acute and chronic health effects (49). 

In another study, researchers found that EMFs are an “oxidative stressor and DNA damage inducer” (48). 

Long-term EMF exposure has also been shown to lead to a chronically increased level of free radicals, reducing the effects of melatonin in the brain (49).

15. EMFs Linked to Dementia

Dementia is the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cardiovascular disease and cancer, and by 2050, it’s estimated that 13 million Americans and 160 million people globally will be affected by the disease.

Unfortunately, there are more than 70 studies linking EMFs to dementia, and this number is likely to rise as time goes on, along with the number of diagnoses (53). 

The research also includes several epidemiological studies and meta-analyses that link exposure to EMFs and Alzheimer’s onset (55). 

An elderly man sitting and thinking. EMFs contribute to dementia and cognitive decline.

Researchers have found that overnight exposure to EMFs significantly increases the secretion of amyloid-beta, a peptide that is involved in the development of Alzheimer's disease (54). 

EMF exposure also negatively affects the “entorhinal cortex”, the area of the brain that is first affected by Alzheimer's disease (56-57). 

Lastly, animal studies show that EMFs decrease learning and memory and cause cognitive deficits (58-59). 

I previously wrote a post with some ways to reverse cognitive decline and dementia. You can check that out here

Conclusion

If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.
— Omar N. Bradley
What EMFs would look like if you could see them.

What EMFs would look like if you could see them.

My vacation in the woods is now over, and I’m currently back in the city. 

I’m certain I’m sensitive to EMFs now, and it’s definitely impacting the quality of my life.

I really hope I don’t scare people with this post. But I do think it’s something that should be on your radar. 

At this point, I still don’t have too many recommendations to combat EMFs, other than the ones I already mentioned in my previous post about myelin (see step #25 in that post). 

But I plan on researching more and putting together a complete protocol that I’ve personally tested myself, so that you can also protect and shield yourself from EMFs!

So, stay tuned for that in an upcoming article.
 

 

 

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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About the Author

Jordan Fallis is a health and science journalist and researcher, and the founder of Optimal Living Dynamics, a website that has helped more than 1.5 million people improve their brain and mental health. His work has been featured in the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Pharmacists Journal. Jordan has also interviewed, consulted, and worked with more than one hundred medical doctors, health practitioners and leading researchers. He spends a lot of time scouring medical research, writing about what he finds, and putting the theories to the test on himself.

References:

(1) https://www.dovepress.com/the-western-diet-and-lifestyle-and-diseases-of-civilization-peer-reviewed-article-RRCC

(2) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891061815000599

(3) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0928468012000442

(4) http://www.magdahavas.com/whos-new-classification-of-rfr-what-does-this-mean-for-canada/

(5) http://www.magdahavas.com/free-internet-access-in-swiss-schools-no-wifi/

(6) http://www.parentsforsafetechnology.org/worldwide-countries-taking-action.html

(7) https://openparliament.ca/committees/health/41-2/58/dr-riina-bray-1/only/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19194860

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25205214/

(10) http://jeb.biologists.org/content/209/17/3322.long

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243874/

(12) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120315110138.htm

(13) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15368378.2011.631068

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23852905

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24192494

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25359903

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9501332/

(18) https://www.rfsafe.com/study-shows-30-mins-exposure-4g-lte-cell-phone-radiation-alters-brain-activity/

(19) http://www.ewg.org/cell-phone-radiation-affects-brain-function

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12881192

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20001702

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14995060

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4459698/

(24) http://www.neilcherry.nz/documents/90_b1_EMR_Reduces_Melatonin_in_Animals_and_People.pdf

(25) http://www.neilcherry.nz/documents/90_b1_EMR_Reduces_Melatonin_in_Animals_and_People.pdf

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1262766/

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23051584

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1519707/

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207748/

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207748/

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062017/

(32) http://www.saludgeoambiental.org/sites/saludgeoambiental.org/files/docs/cem_baja_frec_y_depresion_canada.pdf

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076339

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19345073

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25598203

(36) http://www.saludgeoambiental.org/sites/saludgeoambiental.org/files/docs/cem_baja_frec_y_depresion_canada.pdf

(37) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891061815000599

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15620045

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22219055

(40) https://www.emf-portal.org/en/article/18762

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9814721

(42) https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nioshtic-2/00080942.html

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071010/

(44) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7275611

(45) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13102818.1994.10818812

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2701375

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15182885

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535669

(49) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15352165

(50) https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/areas/cellphones/index.html

(51) https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/do-cell-phones-cause-cancer-probably-but-it-s-complicated/

(52) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569116/

(53) http://www.emfresearch.com/emfs-dementia/

(54) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394007002480

(55) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijcb/2012/683897/

(56) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25462671

(57) https://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n2/full/nn.3606.html

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25359903

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25542888

(60) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16822199

(61) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3148626/

(62) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16013456

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Nahas, MD CCFP DCAPM ABIM and Dr. Robert Blake Gibb, MD

https://openparliament.ca/committees/health/41-2/58/dr-riina-bray-1/only/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19194860

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25205214/

(10) http://jeb.biologists.org/content/209/17/3322.long

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243874/

(12) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120315110138.htm

(13) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15368378.2011.631068

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23852905

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24192494

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25359903

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9501332/

(18) https://www.rfsafe.com/study-shows-30-mins-exposure-4g-lte-cell-phone-radiation-alters-brain-activity/

(19) http://www.ewg.org/cell-phone-radiation-affects-brain-function

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12881192

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20001702

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14995060

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4459698/

(24) http://www.neilcherry.nz/documents/90_b1_EMR_Reduces_Melatonin_in_Animals_and_People.pdf

(25) http://www.neilcherry.nz/documents/90_b1_EMR_Reduces_Melatonin_in_Animals_and_People.pdf

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1262766/

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23051584

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1519707/

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207748/

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207748/

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062017/

(32) http://www.saludgeoambiental.org/sites/saludgeoambiental.org/files/docs/cem_baja_frec_y_depresion_canada.pdf

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076339

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19345073

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25598203

(36) http://www.saludgeoambiental.org/sites/saludgeoambiental.org/files/docs/cem_baja_frec_y_depresion_canada.pdf

(37) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891061815000599

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15620045

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22219055

(40) https://www.emf-portal.org/en/article/18762

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9814721

(42) https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nioshtic-2/00080942.html

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071010/

(44) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7275611

(45) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13102818.1994.10818812

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2701375

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15182885

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535669

(49) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15352165

(50) https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/areas/cellphones/index.html

(51) https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/do-cell-phones-cause-cancer-probably-but-it-s-complicated/

(52) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569116/

(53) http://www.emfresearch.com/emfs-dementia/

(54) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394007002480

(55) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijcb/2012/683897/

(56) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25462671

(57) https://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n2/full/nn.3606.html

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25359903

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25542888

(60) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16822199

(61) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3148626/

(62) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16013456

References:

(1) https://www.dovepress.com/the-western-diet-and-lifestyle-and-diseases-of-civilization-peer-reviewed-article-RRCC

(2) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891061815000599

(3) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0928468012000442

(4) http://www.magdahavas.com/whos-new-classification-of-rfr-what-does-this-mean-for-canada/

(5) http://www.magdahavas.com/free-internet-access-in-swiss-schools-no-wifi/

(6) http://www.parentsforsafetechnology.org/worldwide-countries-taking-action.html

(7) https://openparliament.ca/committees/health/41-2/58/dr-riina-bray-1/only/

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19194860

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25205214/

(10) http://jeb.biologists.org/content/209/17/3322.long

(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3243874/

(12) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120315110138.htm

(13) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/15368378.2011.631068

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23852905

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24192494

(16) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25359903

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/9501332/

(18) https://www.rfsafe.com/study-shows-30-mins-exposure-4g-lte-cell-phone-radiation-alters-brain-activity/

(19) http://www.ewg.org/cell-phone-radiation-affects-brain-function

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12881192

(21) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20001702

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14995060

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4459698/

(24) http://www.neilcherry.nz/documents/90_b1_EMR_Reduces_Melatonin_in_Animals_and_People.pdf

(25) http://www.neilcherry.nz/documents/90_b1_EMR_Reduces_Melatonin_in_Animals_and_People.pdf

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1262766/

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23051584

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1519707/

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207748/

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4207748/

(31) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062017/

(32) http://www.saludgeoambiental.org/sites/saludgeoambiental.org/files/docs/cem_baja_frec_y_depresion_canada.pdf

(33) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12076339

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19345073

(35) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25598203

(36) http://www.saludgeoambiental.org/sites/saludgeoambiental.org/files/docs/cem_baja_frec_y_depresion_canada.pdf

(37) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891061815000599

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15620045

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22219055

(40) https://www.emf-portal.org/en/article/18762

(41) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9814721

(42) https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nioshtic-2/00080942.html

(43) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071010/

(44) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7275611

(45) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13102818.1994.10818812

(46) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2701375

(47) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15182885

(48) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22535669

(49) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15352165

(50) https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/areas/cellphones/index.html

(51) https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/do-cell-phones-cause-cancer-probably-but-it-s-complicated/

(52) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2569116/

(53) http://www.emfresearch.com/emfs-dementia/

(54) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304394007002480

(55) https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijcb/2012/683897/

(56) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25462671

(57) https://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n2/full/nn.3606.html

(58) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25359903

(59) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25542888

(60) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16822199

(61) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3148626/

(62) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16013456

Medically reviewed by Dr. Fred Hui, MD, CCFP, CAFC

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How to Protect Your Brain from Blue Light

Overcoming brain and mental health issues isn't just about nutrition and supplementation

It's also about light.

A woman staring at a screen and being exposed to blue light at night. She is wearing glasses, but they don’t look like they block out the light!

Chronic exposure to artificial blue light is a risk factor that is often overlooked. 

This post talks about how you should be striving to reduce your blue light exposure as much as possible throughout the entire day (unless it’s naturally coming from the sun). 

We're getting way too much blue light nowadays, and it’s taking a toll on your brain and mental health. 

And if you’re interested in learning more about light, I recommend the book Light: Medicine of the Future by Dr. Jacob Liberman. 

What Is Blue Light?

Light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

Our eyes can only see light that falls within a small range of the electromagnetic spectrum, called "visible light". The human eye is not capable of "seeing" radiation with wavelengths outside the visible spectrum. 

Visible light corresponds to a wavelength range of approximately 400 to 700 nanometers (nm). Each visible wavelength is represented by a colour. Blue light is defined as having a wavelength between 450 and 495 nm. This short wavelength means that blue light is a type of high-energy visible light (25). 

Blue light is emitted from energy-efficient fluorescent and LED bulbs, and electronics such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and televisions. Obviously, these indoor man-made sources of blue light are on the rise, and we’re being exposed to more blue light in our environments than ever before (26). 

Why Artificial Blue Light Is Bad for Your Brain and Mental Health

I’ve been learning more and more that it’s best to limit your exposure to artificial blue light all day long, and not just at night. 

It’s important to note that there’s a big difference between artificial blue light and natural blue light from the sun. 

A lamp emitting blue light.

During the day, exposure to full-spectrum sunlight – which naturally contains some blue light –is actually beneficial and necessary for resetting your circadian rhythm.

The blue light from the sun is also balanced with other colours of light, such as red, green, infrared, and ultraviolet light.

But our devices and artificial lights have five times the amount of blue light than you would get from the sun. 

In the past, our ancestors would have been exposed to blue light from the sun only, and they weren’t exposed to blue light at night. 

But today, we shield ourselves from full-spectrum natural sunlight, and live indoors with excess artificial blue lighting all day long. 

And this is having brain and mental health consequences.

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What The Experts Are Saying

An increasing number of researchers, doctors and health organizations are speaking out about this. 

Dr. Jack Kruse, MD, a neurosurgeon and author of the book Epi-Paleo Rx, and speaks passionately about the risks of blue light. He argues that attending to your light environment is more important than food. 

Dr. Alexander Wunsch, another physician and researcher in the field of photobiology, explains that artificial LED lights have an excess of blue light, and not enough red light, and this creates reactive oxygen species (19):

We don’t have this kind of light quality in nature. This has consequences. The stress has consequences in the retina; it has consequences in our endocrine system.
— Dr. Alexander Wunsch

Even the American Medical Association is speaking out about this issue.  Last June, they released guidelines on how to reduce the harmful human and environmental effects of high-intensity LED lighting.

They point out that the energy-efficient LED lighting adversely suppresses melatonin at night, has a “five times greater impact” on sleep rhythms than conventional lighting, and widespread implementation of this lighting will lead to sleep problems and other conditions related to poor sleep.

Despite the energy efficiency benefits, some LED lights are harmful.
— Dr. Maya A. Babu, AMA Board Member

There is lots of research to support these claims and concerns. 

Researchers have discovered photoreceptors (light-sensitive cells) in our eyes that track the amount of blue light we're exposed to throughout the day. These photoreceptors communicate with areas of your brain that affect your mood, emotions and circadian rhythm (20-22). 

It’s also well-established that blue light at night sends a signal to your body that it’s daytime, which increases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and reduces the quality of your sleep. It does this by significantly suppressing the production of melatonin, your body’s sleep hormone (27-34).

Melatonin is also an antioxidant that protects your brain and increases mitochondrial function. So chronically low melatonin can lead to lower mental energy and neurodegeneration (35-37). 

In my experience, if your circadian rhythm is thrown off and you’re not sleeping well, it's very hard to be completely healthy and emotionally balanced.

Studies show that exposure to blue light at night is significantly associated with depression (23). 

Other research has found that “higher nighttime light intensity” leads to lower melatonin levels, which contributes to depression and cognitive impairment (24). 

But luckily there are ways to protect yourself.

Let’s get into what you can do to shield yourself from the negative effects of artificial blue light. 

1. Use Software That Blocks Blue Light

Installing software that prevents blue light from being emitted from your technology is another cheap and straightforward action you can take to protect yourself from excess blue light.

My number one recommendation is to install the program Iris on your computer. You can download it here

Iris automatically alters the colour temperature of your screen as the day goes on, removing the blue wavelengths after sunset.

The standard setting only removes blue light in the evening, but you can change the settings so that it blocks out blue light all day long. That’s what I do now. 

Iris takes care of your computer, but what about your phone? 

Last year, Apple released Night Shift with its iOS 9.3 update to reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the iPhone. You can learn how to activate this on your iPhone here. I have Night Shift turned on all throughout the day. 

You can also install Twilight if you have an Android device.

2. Wear Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses

It's becoming increasing clear that one of the simplest and least expensive ways to support your brain, promote healthy sleep, and lower your risk of chronic mental disease, is to wear blue-light-blocking glasses not just at night, but anytime you are exposed to artificial lighting.

I own multiple pairs of blue-light-blocking glasses myself.  

Research shows that wearing blue-light-blocking glasses improves sleep quality and mood (1). 

Other studies show that wearing blue-light-blocking glasses in a bright room or while using blue-lit technology maintains normal melatonin levels at night (2-4). 

Researchers have also found dramatic improvements in insomnia and mood in about half of bipolar patients who wore blue-blocking glasses (5). 

People with bipolar disorder who wore blue-blocking glasses from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. for seven days had significant improvements in symptoms of mania compared to those who wore clear glasses. These benefits kicked in after just 3 days (6-7). 

During the day, I work on a computer in an office with lots of artificial fluorescent lighting shining down on me. 

So I wear these Gunnar computer glasses. These glasses have a light-yellow tint and are somewhat stylish. They significantly reduce the amount of blue light I’m exposed to throughout the day, which has reduced fatigue and eye strain. 

They are like the opposite of sunglasses - I wear them inside when I’m exposed to artificial blue light, and take them off when I go outside.

Gunnar Optiks has a wide-range of computer and gaming glasses to choose from through Amazon

If you work under blue light all day, it’s also a good idea to wear long sleeves because your skin also absorbs the blue light. Shielding it from your eyes is the priority though.

At home in the evening, I wear these orange-tinted Uvex glasses as soon as it’s dark outside. They eliminate all blue light, but aren’t stylish at all, so you’re better off wearing them inside and not out in public.

I also just ordered these red glasses, as they block out both blue and green light. Green light has been shown to stunt the release of melatonin, but not nearly as much as blue light. If you don’t have blue-blocking glasses yet, get the red ones

You can also get BluTech prescription lenses for the daytime but I haven’t done that for myself yet.

And these glasses are more stylish for when you want to go out in public at night but still want to block out the blue light. 

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3. Increase Your Exposure to Red and Infrared Light

Blue light causes reactive oxygen species in your tissue, and this stress needs to be balanced with near-infrared light that is not present in LEDs.
— Dr. Alexander Wunsch

If you’re exposed to too much blue light, you need to make up for it later by exposing yourself to more red light.

One of the reasons red and infrared light supports brain and mental health is because it combats the effects of blue light. 

Ideally, we would simply be exposed to the sunlight throughout the day, which has a healthy balance of both blue and red light.

But unfortunately, we live in the modern world, and it’s not possible to live outside all day like our ancestors, even though our bodies still expect us to. 

I work in an office environment with lots of blue light, and no red and infrared light.

A man exposes himself to red light.

So to balance out my excess blue light exposure during the day, I use a number of different LED devices and bulbs in the evening that emit red and infrared light. 

As I’ve discussed before, I use this Light Relief Device on my head and thyroid. It has LEDs that emit red and infrared light. I also use this CCTV Infrared light device on my head (the power adaptor for the CCTV device is sold separately here). 

But what I haven’t mentioned before is that I also have this infrared bulb shining in my bedroom and this red bulb in my bathroom. I use them to light up my apartment, particularly at night.

I even shine these bulbs directly into my eyes, face, chest and back for the health benefits. Because, as I mentioned earlier, our skin has photoreceptors that absorb light, and it’s critical to absorb more red light to balance out the blue. 

Infrared saunas are another excellent way to expose yourself to infrared light. Check out my post about the benefits here

Penetrating red light is possibly the fundamental anti-stress factor for all organisms. Old observations such as Warburg’s, that visible light can restore the activity of respiratory pigments, showed without doubt that visible light is biochemically active. By the 1960s, several studies had been published showing the inhibition of respiratory enzymes by blue light, and their activation by red light. The problem to be explained is why the science culture simply couldn’t accept crucial facts of that sort.
— Dr. Raymond Peat

I find that all of these devices and bulbs increase my energy and mood.

So at the very least, consider installing red light bulbs, like this one, throughout your house in the evening to increase your exposure to red light. 

This may all seem strange but it works, and there is plenty of evidence to support it. 

In fact, red light therapy has been around for over 100 years. In 1910, Dr. John Kellogg published a book, titled Light Therapeutics, in which he recommended light therapy for a number of different diseases, including chronic fatigue.

Research shows that high-intensity blue light is bad for your mitochondria, while red light enhances mitochondrial function (15-18). 

I even found a study that clearly shows that red LED light protects animals from fake artificial blue light (14). 

And here is a spreadsheet that compiles a lot of the research showing that red and infrared light can help treat many different diseases, including depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, hypothyroidism, acne and chronic pain. 

Overall, blue light triggers oxidative stress in your cells, while red light repairs and regenerates your cells. Blue light is the equivalent to eating junk food, while red light is like eating healthy food. Staring at your smartphone all day and night is like eating McDonalds, while shining red light on yourself is like eating more vegetables. If you eat too much junk food, you might make up for it later by eating healthier and exercising. But with blue light, you need to make up for it by absorbing more red light. That’s what I do, and I hope it helps you too. 

4. Sleep in a pitch black room

Making sure your bedroom is as dark as possible while you sleep is another step you can take.  

Light can penetrate your eyelids, so simply closing your eyes is not enough. 

Even small amounts of light can reduce your melatonin production and disrupt your circadian rhythm. Exposure to room light during sleep has been shown to suppress melatonin by more than 50 percent (8). 

I completely black out my room with black-out curtains.

Another option is to wear a sleep mask like this one. 

However, it’s important to note that your skin also has photreceptors and can sense light in your environment (9-11). 

So it’s optimal to just black out your entire room with curtains, especially if you have LED streetlights outside your house. 

Electronics should also be unplugged so that your room is completely dark. 

If you do these things, you’ll notice a profound difference in your sleep and brain and mental health.

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5. Vitamin E and N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC)

Vitamin E and N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) are two nutrients with antioxidant effects. 

One study found that NAC protects against the cellular damage induced by blue LED light (38). 

Perhaps this is one of the reasons NAC helps people who struggle with mental illness

Another study found that a combination of vitamin E and NAC significantly reduced blue-light-induced levels of reactive oxygen species (39). 

Both NAC and Vitamin E are included in the Optimal Antiox supplement.

6. Lutein and Zeaxanthin

A broken egg and egg yolk. Egg yolks contain antioxidants that can protect you have excessive blue light exposure.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two more antioxidants that are found in your eye that may be able to protect you from the detrimental effects of blue light.  

Both zeaxanthin and lutein cannot be made by your body, so you must get them from food or supplements. They are found in green leafy vegetables, orange and yellow-coloured fruits and vegetables, and egg yolks. 

Together, these antioxidants can reduce free radicals before they cause damage and help your body better handle excess blue light. Researchers have found that they “absorb a broader spectrum of high-energy blue light, which offers greater protection of retinal tissue” (12, 13). 

You can also take them together as a supplement

Conclusion

Nutrition is important. But it's not the be all and end all.

Light is just as important.

Overall, you should aim to limit your exposure to blue light, both during the day and evening. 

Humans evolved getting a full spectrum of light throughout the day, not overwhelming amounts of artificial blue. 

Excessive blue light from LEDs and electronic screens can contribute to illness by triggering an overproduction of reactive oxygen species and decreasing your body’s production of melatonin.

But with the above modifications, you can significantly reduce the amount of blue light that enters your eyes and affects your brain and mental health.

Enjoy This Article? You Might Also Like My FREE Food Guide for Optimal Brain Health!

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Live Optimally,

Jordan Fallis

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About the Author

Jordan Fallis is a health and science journalist and researcher, and the founder of Optimal Living Dynamics, a website that has helped more than 1.5 million people improve their brain and mental health. His work has been featured in the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, and the Canadian Pharmacists Journal. Jordan has also interviewed, consulted, and worked with more than one hundred medical doctors, health practitioners and leading researchers. He spends a lot of time scouring medical research, writing about what he finds, and putting the theories to the test on himself.

References:

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030543

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22850476

(3) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-079X.2006.00332.x/full

(4) http://press.endocrine.org/doi/full/10.1210/jc.2004-2062

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20030543

(6) http://www.newsweek.com/blue-blocking-glasses-may-help-treat-bipolar-disorder-promote-sleep-484065

(7) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bdi.12390/abstract

(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3047226/

(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19493002

(10) https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21127-skin-sees-the-light-to-protect-against-sunshine/

(11) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bdi.12390/abstract

(12) http://jn.nutrition.org/content/133/4/992.long

(13) http://www.newhope.com/high-energy-blue-light-exposure-protection-all-ages-white-paper

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/27562504/

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7769534

(16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18922088

(17) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19837048

(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21116053

(19) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15978279 

(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9554572/

(21) http://www.newsweek.com/blue-blocking-glasses-may-help-treat-bipolar-disorder-promote-sleep-484065

(22) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3200463/

(23) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23856285

(24) http://press.endocrine.org/doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2015-1859

(25) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24909301  

(26) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4734149/

(27) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21415172

(28) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21164152

(29) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15582288

(30) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15325001

(31) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsr.12050/full

(32) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23691095

(33) http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/1/e006748

(34) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3047226/

(35) http://behavioralandbrainfunctions.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1744-9081-2-15

(36) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16179266

(37) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16364209

(38) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24909301

(39) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15978279

Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Blake Gibb, MD

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