How Modern Lighting Can Destroy Your Sleep, Your Eyes & Your Health (& What You Can Do About It).

Biohacking, Podcast

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Light can have a significant impact on your sleep and your health.

In today’s podcast, you’re going to discover the hidden dangers of light-emitting diode (LED) lighting that most people are completely unaware of, including the risk of cataracts, blindness, age-related macular degeneration, mitochondrial dysfunction, metabolic disorders, disrupted circadian biology and sleep, cancer and more.

LED light is currently used in applications as diverse as aviation lighting, automotive headlamps, advertising, general lighting, traffic signals, camera flashes, and lighted wallpaper. Large-area LED displays are used as stadium displays, dynamic decorative displays, and dynamic message signs on freeways. Thin, lightweight message displays are used at airports and railway stations, and as destination displays for trains, buses, trams, and ferries. LED’s are also used in traffic lights and signals, exit signs, emergency vehicle lighting, ships’ navigation lights, aircraft cockpits, brake lights, submarine and ship bridges, astronomy observatories, night vision, glowsticks and more.

My guest is Dr. Alexander Wunsch, who is a physician, researcher and lecturer in light medicine and photobiology with particular interest in light effects and beneficial or adverse health impacts of solar radiation and artificial light sources on endocrine and cellular levels in humans. He conducts studies on photobiological effects of optical (UV, VIS and IR) radiation.

In his private medical practice in Heidelberg, he uses therapeutic light spectra in combination with other biophysically based treatments and develops light equipment for medical and cosmetic purposes. He is associate lecturer at the Wismar University of Applied Sciences and mentors students in their master theses in light and health-associated topics. Alexander Wunsch presents at international conferences and operates as a consultant for federal authorities, media and industry.

During our discussion, you’ll discover:

-Why LED light is so much different than other forms of light, especially with regards to how it affects your biology…[7:10]

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-The biggest sources of LED in your personal environment…[16:22]

-Why monitor and light bulb flickering is such a serious issue when it comes to your health…[19:35]

-How LED’s (especially when used after sunset) vastly reduces the regenerative and restoring capacities of your eyes…[23:35]

-Why near infrared, which is missing from LED light, is so important for you to be exposed to…[38:45]

-What the healthiest type of lighting is to use and what should you look for when choosing a light…[53:00]

-The two parameters you must look for in a light bulb, and what numbers those parameters should be at…[54:20 & 56:20]

-Top recommendations for computer screens that don’t damage your eyes…[70:15]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

Ben’s podcast about the Iristech software he uses with his computer monitor

The ReTimer glasses Ben mentions

The HumanCharger Ben mentions

The RubyLux incadescent lightbulb Ben has on his desk

The LightingScience lightbulbs Ben mentions

The Vielight Neuro that Ben mentions

The Civilights that Dr. Wunsch discusses

The Soraa lightbulbs that Dr. Wunsch discusses

Meanwell AC to DC transformer

LowBlueLights grounding cable

Greenwave dirty electricity filter

The Eizo Flexscan monitor that Ben uses

The Apple CinemaDisplay that Dr. Wunsch uses

Alexander’s Vimeo video channel

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Alexander or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!


Addendum

I have received multiple questions about the “Joovv” light that I use daily for testosterone enhancement (read more here or watch this video) – specifically whether the LED lights in the Joovv are harmful. Here is my take on that:

The guy who makes the Joovv (Scott Nelson) is a friend of mine. Before starting Joovv, he spent close to 15 years in the medical device industry (with companies like Medtronic, Covidien, Boston Scientific, etc) and worked closely with world-renowned physicians, primarily the “who’s who” in the fields of interventional cardiology, interventional radiology, and cardiovascular surgery. I do know he’s studied the field of photomedicine quite a bit and have learned the following in conversations with him:

-There are hundreds of published studies that point to the benefits of LLLT at specific wavelengths (both red and IR). There is a robust amount of clinical evidence that supports both red light (in the mid 600nm range) as well as IR. That’s why Joovv offers the ability to add red, IR, or a combination of red/IR to their devices. So I don’t *think* it’s just “simple red light”.

-I asked them why LED’s are used in Joovv, and they replied that you get 10x the efficiency without the heat loss, and included a graph that compares the WARP 10 device (LED-based red light) to a 250-watt heat lamp. (although way over-priced, the WARP 10 device was developed based on initial funding from NASA.)

-With that said, you can benefit from incadescent heat lamps. The first Joovv prototype utilized eight 250 watt incandescent infrared heat lamps (that tripped breakers constantly). Countless studies show that 4-5 Joules of energy is required to get noticeable benefits from red light therapy; many show treatments at more than 100 Joules. You would trip breakers and die of heat exhaustion (LOL) trying to get this from incandescent heat lamps. Their tests using irradiance meters mirror the photon flux and literally, an inch away, you are getting less than 5 mW/cm2 from these lamps because over 90% of the energy is wasted as heat. Alternatively, their Joovv devices deliver over 50mW/cm2 at 6″ way. And well over 100 mw/cm2 at an inch away. The efficiency of heat lamps is low in comparison to LEDs. So it would take 100 of these incandescent heat lamps bulbs (and more electricity than a 200 amp residential service can provide) to equal the output from their devices – not to mention the over-heating issue.

-The key with any light therapy device is consistency. And the major problem with most light therapy devices (heat lamps included) is twofold: small treatment area combined with subpar output. That’s why most of these devices recommend treatment times of 20+ minutes. They designed their devices to optimize for these two gaps in the market – treatment area and power output. The “net net” is that you don’t have to use teir devices very long while still receiving benefits over a large surface area. Compliance is king when it comes to light therapy – and they feel their Joovv devices help with this issue.

– Their devices emit negligible EMFs. Well below the 2 milligauss threshold.

– Regarding red light and its ability to energize mitochondrial cytochrome C oxidase – see this seminal piece: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2790317/

– If you’re comparing apples to apples, the Joovv devices are under-priced. Look at other players in the space – LightStim, Baby Quasar, etc. – when you consider the treatment size and power output, their devices are priced pretty fair. I mean, the LightStim LED bed is selling for $60k (not joking). The comparable Joovv Light Max starts out at $2395.

And then there is this, from one of the lead Joovv engineers:

-Regarding the effect of LED lights on circadian rhythms, there have been many studies on the effect that different wavelengths have on the human body and how the time of day is also an important consideration (and I know you’ve covered this before on your podcast and blog).  I think Mercola has an article that has some interesting information surrounding the wholesale replacement of incandescent bulbs with LED lights (as our everyday light source) that probably merits further study.  
 
-LED lights are not necessarily problematic sources of EMF.  From the testing that I have done in multiple homes with EMF meters, the typical light switch and outlet generate more EMF than a high-quality LED transformer.  Additionally, the majority of studies that review negative effects of LEDs specify that the source of the issue is the heavy dosage of blue and green wavelengths at night that can disrupt sleep cycles.  This is consistent with what would be expected as the natural light we receive from the sun has a higher concentration of blue wavelengths in the morning and midday and then much of this is filtered out at dusk and we see a predominantly orange and red light distribution as our body prepares to rest.  Here is a great meta-analysis that helps explain these concepts – http://photobiology.info/Roberts-CR.html.  I have also seen several studies that demonstrate that red light helps with sleep quality (my teenage sons actually do their Joovv Light treatments right before bed).  Here is an example of a study showing benefits of LED-based red light for sleep quality: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3499892/.  
-Finally, I think it’s important to clarify that the human body receives light, from whatever source, as a distribution of light photons at a given intensity.  Essentially, our cells don’t care if the photons were created by the sun, LEDs, lasers, or incandescent bulbs; they simply respond to the wavelength and intensity of the light.  As previously stated, there is an overwhelming amount of clinical research that shows significant health benefits from red light wavelengths as well as other wavelengths.  Joovv constantly get reports from customers, some of which are MDs, that were initially skeptical but now have witnessed the healing effects of red light therapy.  
But to play devil’s advocate…a physician I highly respect had this to say:

“There is no question that LEDs are far more energy efficient, that is why the government banned the incandescent.  They are energy efficient on steroids no question about that.  But you are making the same mistake as the government saying that there is all this wasted energy.

It is only wasted from the perspective of being able to provide visible light that can help you see.  BUT that “wasted” energy is primarily FULL SPECTRUM near infrared with a touch of mid infrared in the example of heat lamps as you can see by the graph I sent on the last email.  This “wasted” energy has very powerful biological effects, especially on the mitochondria.”

Anyways, just threw in these last bits for you true geeks out there. In the meantime, leave your questions, comments and feedback below…


Also published on Medium.

28 thoughts on “How Modern Lighting Can Destroy Your Sleep, Your Eyes & Your Health (& What You Can Do About It).

  1. Mini Grider says:

    I own a PEMF mat. I’m sure you are familiar with this, but just in case, it is a Pulsed Electromagnetic Mattress that has helped my pain and circulation in my legs. I ordered it from PEMF supply through my naturopathic doctor. It helps maximize clarity, focus, productivity, increases energy, aids relaxation and better sleep. However, it does not address my sagging facial and body skin. I would like to order the Full Body Joovv Combo. Would there be any harm in using both of these devices every day I use my mat in the day for energy and at night to sleep better, but it does not do the toning for the body. I spent $1250 for the mat, so I want to make use of it, but want to address my sagging skin. Thanks for your time. M.G.

  2. R B says:

    Here is something not very clear to me: the LEDs, used for lighting produce little to none light in the red to IR part of the spectrum. On the other hands LEDs are used in the NIR light therapy to emit red light. What is the difference between the two types of LEDs, and why don’t they use ones with more red for lighting applications – it is obvious they could be produced, if they are used in NIR therapy?

    1. The main reason for this is NIR doesn’t provide LIGHT as much as skin therapy, etc. and most LED’s are produced to make light and not for therapy per se.

  3. Jake says:

    Will 810nm like the vielight neuro cause cataracts (or other eye problems), or help it? Which is it?

  4. Ibrahim says:

    Hey Ben, just a question on the Joovv. I’m debating between getting the pure redlight model and the mix of redlight and NIR. Is there value in getting the combo? Does NIR have the same benefits? Or is it better to get the more intense redlight from the more basic device?

    1. I'm really, really digging the combo now. I feel even more of a difference. Full details at https://greenfieldfitnesssystems.com/product/joov

      1. Anna says:

        I read this article and it implys you were endorsing the red light version, not the combo. I’m also on the fence about this since I have a NIR light panel (incandescent) that I love, but use it in my sauna for detox. Since I already am using NIR in incandescent form, I’m not sure which one.

        1. I own both. And I like the JOOVV Max Combo best.

  5. Thaddeus says:

    Ben – I loved this podcast. And the ways to reduce our chronic exposure to blue light are accessible and affordable. Great job with the show notes too. I have changed out my LEDs to halogen and incandescent. One recommendation Dr Wunsch made was to use “clear” bulbs and not the frosted white bulbs when buying incandescent and halogens. I also changed over to IRIS on my laptop from f.lux after your IRIS podcast. Thanks for all you do. Looking forward to saying Hi again at Paleo F(x).

  6. Kevin DeGroot says:

    If I missed something on Hue lighting please direct me there. Otherwise, I’m curious how they fit into this discussion, specifically the ones capable of thousands of colors and intensities.

    1. Soly says:

      I too have this questions. I’m curious about the Ambiance bulbs, which claim to have 50k shades of white. Our bulbs are set to a bright white during the day, and a warm glow after 8:30 pm.

  7. Carlos says:

    Wow. What a great episode!

    I definitly want to replicate your lighting conditions in the rooms in your house Ben.

    What kind of different lights day vs night do you have in each room ??

  8. John says:

    Would a laptop/phone/tablet display, when operated from a battery, have less flicker than when plugged in (AC vs DC)?

    1. Here's a response from Dr Wunsch: This answer can´t be given due to the variety of technical solutions available. Everything is possible…

      Some devices will not flicker, neither in battery mode nor in plugged-in mode. Other devices flicker regardless their mode of operation. Some chargers are good in quality, others not. Normally, the battery should act as a buffer, ideally removing dirty electricity coming from the transformer. In order to be on the safe side, measurement is inevitable.

  9. Oshie says:

    Regarding wearables like the WHOOP/Oura Ring/Fit Bits that use LEDs 24/7, are those problematic to the body? And what are your thoughts regarding the Human Charger as far as its enriched blue light LEDs?

    Thanks Ben!

    1. Here's a response from Dr Wunsch: I don´t see a significant problem regarding the LED technology for pulse rate measurement, still it is a question if it is a good idea to have electronic circuitry in the body field 24/7. As always, a benefit/risk-ratio assessment leads the way: If you are more active with constant feedback from wearables, the benefit might prevail. If you are electrosensitive, you might want to have electronics as far as possible from your body. Anyway, each quartz wrist watch with stepper motor produces significant electromagnetic disturbance on your wrist – if you can stand that, you might survive the smart watch as well. In my opinion, it is important to have only intermittent exposure to electricity – during the night: no smartwatch, no smartphone, no active power line in the sleeping room and your body can recover from the dirty-electricity-induced stress…

  10. Sven says:

    Ben, another thing I’d like to know:

    If you lie in the sun at noon for say 20 min, would you recommend protecting your eyes with maybe a shirt or anything else to cover your eyes? Meaning, will lying in the sun with eyes closed cause eye damage or is 20 min exposure fine, even if the sun is beating down on your closed eyes?

    Thanks for the answer man!

    1. Here's a response from Dr Wunsch: The eyelids provide sufficient protection from sunlight, if closed. Anyway, you should ALWAYS wear a hat when you´re exposed to sunlight in order to protect your skin from radiation overload and prevent your brain from heating up too much. The sun terraces (head, ears, nose, face, hands) normally get too much sun during lifetime. The body parts normally covered with clothes need more sun, not your eyes and face!

  11. Sven says:

    Hi Ben,

    I didn’t really get the part about using a transformer/converter for the lamps. Where would this transformer be placed and also, why would a transformer need a 3-prong or 2-prong adpater? Is the transformer plugged into a wall outlet?

    I’m not too good of an eletrician, so excuse my stupidity on this.

    1. Here's a response from Dr Wunsch: The transformer (AC/DC) converts high voltage alternating current into low voltage direct current. Operating low voltage incandescent lamps with DC means: NO dirty electricity and NO light flicker (flicker = preventable stress). The 3-prong connection to the grid results in elimination of dirty electricity in the low voltage section of the assembly (secondary side of transformer) due to the grounding/earth link. Depending on requirements the transformer can be installed non-moving (stationary) by an electrician or can be plugged into the wall outlet, for example in case of a desk lamp. You should consult an electrician for DC conversion of lighting installations…

  12. Kirk says:

    Ben – Dr. Wunsch mentions using a Near Infrared Incandescent light bulb while using the Human Charger. Can you explain this suggestion? Thanks! I just started recently using the Valkee product.
    I really enjoy your podcasts – they make my drive time productive time!

    1. Here's a response fro Dr Wunsch: Seems that I misinterpreted something during the interview? If blue LEDs are used for boosting performance via the ocular pathway, incandescent lamps should be added. As long as the light shines into nose or ears, additional near infrared for retinal protection is obviously not needed…

  13. Michael says:

    Regarding the use of red LEDs…he talks mostly about the eye/brain effect of light. The red LED therapy is mostly for skin absorption. Maybe that makes it better tolerated.

  14. Neil Taylor says:

    I couldn’t follow the need for AC to DC transformers. Do you need them for incandescent dominant bulbs as well as LED? I thought the residue from heat/light negates it.

    1. Jim McIntosh says:

      All LED’s operate on DC, period. To convert AC to DC a “power supply” or Rectifier is required. Most modern rectifiers chop the AC into little bits and then reverse the polarity 1/2 of the time to give the appearance of DC. Ac is used because a transformer can change the voltages and the current can actually be interrupted on the larger power system. DC has limitations as to how many amps can be interrupted whereas AC can because it happens when current crosses zero 120 times a second DC is constant.

      You can simply look at the embossed or labeled specifications, It will specify input Voltage and output voltage as well as the polarity of the plug and the Amps that are supplied at DC, (small ones are most likely in milli-amps). The rectification process creates harmonics, the better power supplies will filter out harmonics returning to the electrical system. This is what some people are calling “dirty electricity”. predominant harmonics are 5th, 7th, 11th, and 13th. If there is actual arcing somewhere on the system, Like electric arc furnaces (industrial) near you the arc can throw an extremely large amplitude and frequencies. There will actually be filters to manage these unwanted fields into the power system. The use or not use of a dedicated ground depends.

      If the US home has been wired for more than 5 years in most jurisdictions the neutral and the ground are electrically the same, in that they are laid down on the same bus bar in the panel. (the bare copper wire, or the green wire is ground) (the white wire is neutral) (Black for 120V systems is “Hot”). The neutral for the most part is the return path for the electro motive force. The ground is a safety issue to also provide a return path should equipment internally fault. So 2 or 3 prong plug is highly dependent on the device you are plugging in and how the outlet is wired. 240V US is a completely different cat.

    2. Here's a response from Dr Wunsch: AC to DC transformers eliminate dirty electricity and flicker in the secondary (low voltage) part of the assembly.

  15. Ken says:

    Check out yotaphone. It has an E-ink display to massively reduce light. Duel screen in case you want full colour screen.

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