4 Reasons Sunglasses Harm Our Health
How our eyes depend on light to balance mood, improve learning, and support our immune system
I banned Ray-Bans from my life a long time ago.
I allowed common sense to conquer my fear of those ‘damaging” UV rays I was always told about.
I thought: if us humans haven’t gone blind after thousands of years of evolution, why would I?
Plus I would lose my glasses all the time.
When I stopped wearing sunglasses, my eyes adapted more quickly than I had expected. I was soon able to see the Sun in all its glory. The only light that still bothers me today is blue light from LEDs however this is because this light isn’t tempered by other parts of the solar spectrum like UV or infrared.
Is sunburn caused by sunglasses?
Before the advent of sunglasses, the UV (ultraviolet) light from the Sun would be absorbed by our eyes, activating a chemical known as the melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) in blood1, which in turn makes melanin. Melanin makes our skin thicken and go brown in order to give us gradual protection from overexposure to solar radiation.
You may be wondering - how is it that we need the Sun to protect us from the Sun?
Aren’t sunscreens supposed to do that since UV causes cancer?
You might be surprised to know that the studies showing how UV is carcinogenic were all done in lab environments, without the rest of the light spectrum balancing out the “harmful” ultraviolet.
Blue light does not stimulate melanin while UV does, and this is why blue light is associated with epithelial cancers and UV light is not.
Melanin also allows us to absorb even more of the beneficial light of the Sun. Recent research shows that when melanin is distributed deeply in our skin, the amount of UV radiation that reaches cells in the epidermis (outer layer) can positively affect folate and B12 levels and repair the DNA in our cells.2 3 I cover this in a previous article here.
Furthermore, UV-B (ultraviolet B) can penetrate our eyes more deeply than our skin, which in turn creates localized inflammation, leading to a stress response that ultimately creates this melanin. This is a “good” kind of acute stress that our bodies used to adapt to our environment.
“Sunglasses alter the solar frequencies to trick the brain by changing the solar frequency spectrum the eye senses into thinking it’s dark and prevent it from producing a hormone (melanin) using nitric oxide pulses that protects against sunburn, according to new research.”
The Sun also allows for a process known as sulfation to occur, which allows our bodies to not only create melanin, but also able to absorb Vitamin D at levels not achievable through supplementation. Sulfation buffers our bodies’ immune response, which includes responding to an overdose of solar radiation through cholesterol production. I explain why sulfation is so crucial here:
Is depression caused by sunglasses?
Sunglasses don’t directly cause mental illness. However light does directly affect our mood. If you’ve ever gotten s.a.d. during the dark days of winter, you’re familiar with how a lack of sunshine can lead to acute changes in mood. This seasonal effect is compounded by an excess of blue light from technology.
When we wear sunglasses, we block out the full spectrum of the Sun, which contains the infrared (IR) that helps our eyes regenerate. Instead we get too much blue light when we shelter indoors in front of our phones.
Research has shown that blue light disrupts brain signaling, and lowers concentrations of dopamine and melatonin around the skeletal muscle of our pupil.
Why is this important?
Dopamine and melatonin are crucial in maintaining our mood and restoring our brain health, respectively. Low dopamine levels are also associated with mood disorders like depression.
When we’re chronically over-exposed to blue light, the pupils of our eyes become sluggish. As a result, the retinal pathways of our eyes that project to our suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) are disrupted. Our SCN regulates daily rhythms of nearly all physiology and behavior. When these rhythms are thrown off, this leads to a cascade of health effects.
Recent research on mice has shown that nerve signals to other parts of our brain, such as the perihabenular nucleus (PHb- shown below) are hindered as a result, leading to mood changes such as depression.4
For more on how blue light contributes to diseases of the brain, you can check out my article here.
Do sunglasses dumb us down?
Mammals rely on the constancy of the solar cycle to maintain not only mood, but cognition as well. Cognitive dysfunction linked to light can be brought on by natural conditions, shift-work, or by traveling across time zones and experiencing jet lag.5
Researchers at Johns Hopkins and Brown University have discovered that our SCN is the main driver of the effects of light on learning and memory (red pathway in diagram above).6
As mentioned above, when we wear sunglasses, the skeletal muscle tone of our eyes weakens, and we lose the ability to regulate dopamine. When control is lost in these central retinal pathways, GABA also will be lowered in the brain.
Why is this important?
Acetylcholine receptors will decrease as well. As this occurs, acetylcholine levels will rise in neural circuits to also lower GABA.7 A deficiency in GABA activity can contribute to certain mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and depression.8
This is why many patients suffering from depression are prescribed GABA, when in reality the root of the issue is not a "chemical imbalance" but an electromagnetic imbalance of light.
Our cognition also drops as acetylcholine receptors are reduced.
Why metal-framed glasses are worse than plastic
As far back as 1989, researchers found that metal frames can increase levels of EMFs by your eyes by ten times!9
Remember - our bodies already have a natural mechanism to adapt to the Sun. We didn’t come out of our mother’s womb with Ray-Bans on.
We were meant to live and breathe under that Great Ball of life-giving Fire.
From MIT researcher Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D.:
“Sunglass marketing ads have trained us to wear sunglasses whenever we go outside, ostensibly to protect our eyes from damaging UV rays. However, melanin—which gives your eyes their blue, hazel, green or brown color—already protects them from UV rays.
In fact, the human eye has evolved to deal naturally with sun exposure through antioxidant protection by melanin. I believe it is crucial to get adequate sunlight exposure to the eyes, not just for the sake of eye health but also because critical nuclei in the brain stem make good use of light that enters through the eyes.”
Join us on our podcast this Friday as we discuss the power of ancestral living, and why we love going back to the basics.
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Jorge Yanar, Michael M. Halassa. A Thalamic Circuit Lights up Mood. Cell,Volume 175, Issue 1, 2018, Pages 34-35, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.08.054.
J. Jaeger, S. Berns, S. Uzelac, S. Davis-Conway. Neurocognitive deficits and disability in major depressive disorder. Psychiatry Res., 145 (2006), pp. 39-48.