Modern-Day Health Woes, Solved


Getty Images There was a time, not too long ago, when a phone was just a phone, sky-high heels weren't sold in every mall, and you had to catch your favorite TV show when it actually aired. There's no going back—and who wants to?—but our contemporary world is bringing its share of health hazards that were once either rare or unheard-of. Check out where our text-happy, music-obsessed, stiletto-loving lives can lead—and what you can do to make these new risks a thing of the past.

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Raise your hand if you sleep curled up with your iPhone, or stay up too late to watch your favorite television shows in real time (Mad Men, we're giving you the side-eye). Beware: More and more research suggests that blue light from a light-emitting diode (LED) screen—the type of screen on most computers, phones, TVs and other devices these days—can inhibit the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and disrupt our circadian rhythms. Researchers think this is because LED-generated blue light emits wavelengths very similar to daylight, so it can make our bodies think it's daytime, all the time.

In a 2011 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, participants who viewed an LED screen at bedtime had melatonin levels that took longer to rise and remained lower during the night than when they looked at old-fashioned fluorescent monitors. This doesn't give fluorescent lighting a pass: Other research has found that energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs—which release blue light—suppress melatonin more than traditional incandescents (which emit a red-orange glow that's less similar to daylight) and can keep people awake longer. Studies like these prompted the American Medical Association last year to issue a report that "exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders."

No, you're not going back to a dumbphone or a computer from 1993, but you can turn down your screen brightness at night, or install the f.lux app, which automatically adjusts the light your computer emits depending on the time of day and where you are. Better yet, do some reading under an incandescent light when you're winding down at night. Another solution: "I tell people to do stretching and yoga before going to bed," Dr. Sadler says, both to unplug and to relax yourself into a sleepier state.

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cant-sleep cant-sleep , depression, diabetes and cancer. "We evolved under cycles of light and dark," says Richard Stevens, PhD, of the University of Connecticut Health Center. "Modern lighting has turned that on its head."

So if you're up late—or wake in the middle of the night—keep lights and activity as low as possible to stay in tune with your body clock, he says. And remember: "It's not a time to snack."