1. Electronic devices disrupt sleep cycles

    iDevices lead to poor sleep

    What's keeping you up at night?

    For many people, it's a sleep disorder such as insomnia. But for millions of others, it's a different type of disorder completely that's disrupting their sleep cycles.

    I call it iPad-nia.

    Lighting in general can disrupt production of melatonin, the hormone we need for proper sleep cycles. But new research shows how the LED lights used in electronics such as iPads and iPhones and such are even more disruptive than ordinary light.

    These lights fool your body into thinking it is daytime -- and when your body thinks it's daytime, it doesn't start up the melatonin factory.

    The result: You can't sleep, no matter what time it is.

    These days, many people unknowingly make the situation worse by bringing the iPad -- or some other similar device -- right into bed for late night-email or reading. Then, when they can't get to sleep, they do even more email and reading -- making the problem even worse.

    The issue isn't just the iPad, of course. And it's not even LED lights -- they may be the worst of it, according to the report in Nature, but constant exposure to artificial lights of any kind can also disrupt melatonin production and sleep cycles.

    That's not just bad news for bedtime. Melatonin is also essential for protection from the free radicals responsible for the damage of aging and it's critical to the immune system, where it can help protect you from diseases such as cancer.

    If you're not getting the sleep you need each night, maybe it's time to enforce a lights-out policy in your home past a certain time. And if that doesn't help, look for other lifestyle issues that may be keeping you up -- including caffeine from drinks like soda and coffee as well as foods such as chocolate.

    You'll even find caffeine hidden in some painkillers.

    If that's not enough to put you to bed, then you may have something else going on -- a nutritional issue or hormonal imbalance that can be corrected naturally. I recommend a holistic physician for helping getting your sleep cycles back on track.

  2. Doctor, my eyes

    The risks of smartphones go far beyond thumbs, wrists and sanity: A new study finds that the devices might be doing a
    number on your eyes, too.

    iPhones, BlackBerries and Androids help millions to work, keep in touch and stay entertained all day and night -- but they're also responsible for some pretty bad habits.

    And it starts with how we hold them.

    Researchers asked 130 volunteers with an average age of 23 to read text messages on their smartphones, then measured
    the distance between their eyes and the screen.

    And as it turns out, the volunteers almost all held their phones much closer than they would a newspaper, book or magazine.

    The researchers say the text readers held the phone about 14 inches away, with some holding it as close as 7 inches --
    compared to an average of 16 inches for normal printed materials.

    In a similar experiment, 100 participants with an average age of nearly 25 were asked to read a Web page on their smartphones -- and researchers say they held the phone just 12.6 inches away.

    So do those extra inches make a difference? You bet they do -- the researchers say it could place an extra strain on the
    eyes, especially for people who already wear glasses and contact lenses.

    They even suggest that optometrists consider testing vision at closer ranges for some patients and alter prescriptions
    based on mobile viewing habits.

    Since Web-based text tends to be smaller than newspaper print -- in some cases up to 70 percent smaller -- the most
    immediate action you can take right now is to go into your phone's settings and adjust the font size.

    Another option is to switch to a larger device for more serious reading -- including the Kindle and tablet computers like the iPad. In addition to larger screens, these devices contain even more settings to allow you to adjust text size as well as brightness.

    Finally, keep in mind that it's OK to put these devices down and even turn them off every now and then.

    Sometimes, the eyes just need a rest no matter what you're looking at.

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