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exhausting energy

As ridiculous as it might sound, those compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) we were sold as a way of saving energy could actually be depleting your own energy — and that of your kids.

That’s right. The light bulbs you’re currently using could be robbing you and your family of sleep while interfering with the production of an essential hormone in your brain — melatonin.  And that, in turn, could translate into a lack of alertness, poor job or school performance, and a weakened immune system and greater susceptibility to a host of health problems.

Unlike traditional incandescent bulbs, CFLs generate light on the “blue” end of the spectrum (the color of which is invisible to the naked eye), similar to what you would be exposed to on a sunny day. This interferes with our natural tendency to become drowsy after sundown, a process that triggers the pineal gland in the brain to produce melatonin. As a result, by using CFLs to light up our homes in the hours before bedtime, we’re inadvertently curtailing that vital melatonin production and setting the stage for chronic insomnia.

To produce melatonin on a daily (or rather nightly) basis, we’re programmed by nature to require a regular interlude of darkness.  Conversely, the body’s melatonin production is curtailed by exposure to sunlight.  This biological pattern has a name: circadian rhythms, which give us a kind of internal clock that tells our bodies when to start and stop certain processes.

But there are things that can easily throw that clock out of whack — one being “graveyard shift” work, which over time can make us more susceptible to various health problems. Exposure to the light from CFL bulbs, along with activities like looking at a computer screen before going to bed, can also cause a disruption of our circadian rhythms that’s apt to be far more insidious, because we’re unlikely to be aware of what’s causing it. All we know is that we’re suddenly tossing and turning and unable to get  a restful night’s sleep — and feel zonked out in the morning.

If that sounds like something you’ve been experiencing lately, the answer might be a lot simpler than you have been led to believe.  Instead of those prescription sleeping pills that can be habit-forming cause all kinds of unwanted — and often serious — side effects, or paying good money for a melatonin supplement, all you might need is a different type of light bulb.

One answer might be to return to using those “traditional” incandescent bulbs. But a much better one, which is every bit as energy efficient as CFLs, would be to switch to much safer and healthier “biologically corrected” LEDs that are now becoming available.  You’ll end up sleeping a whole lot better at night– with none of the other concerns about the health hazards of incandescents discussed in previous blogs.

In other words, a better type of “energy-saving bulb” might be all it takes to re-energize yourself.

Linda Bonvie

Linda Bonvie is an author and consumer advocate with over 20 years of experience researching and writing about food safety, health and environmental issues. She is the editor of FoodIdentityTheft.com, for which she writes twice weekly blogs, and is co-author of Chemical-Free Kids: How to Safeguard Your Child’s Diet and Environment (2003) and Chemical-Free Kids: the Organic Sequel (2008), as well as The Stevia Story: a tale of incredible sweetness and intrigue (1997). Articles she has co-authored with her brother Bill have been published in a number of top magazines and many major newspapers. One, an expose on the spraying of passengers on international flights with a toxic pesticide, which was published back in 1993, led to the requirement being dropped by a couple dozen countries after then-Transportation Secretary Federico Pena became personally involved in the issue.

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