In my Master Herbalist class, we are studying the endocrine system this week. That is essentially the system of glands that secrete hormones that affect our bodies so profoundly. Anyway, I think I've learned the hard way that I may have run afoul of my pineal gland.
The pineal gland sits in the middle of your head, and it produces the hormones melatonin (at night) and serotonin (during the day). Some have called the pineal gland the "third eye" because it receives sensory information from the optic nerve, and the light and dark that comes through that nerve causes it to vary its output of melatonin (increasing at night and decreasing during the day). This may be why melatonin is thought to be intimately associated with our body's internal timekeeping mechanism. (Source: Structure & Function of the Body by Thibodeau and Patton).
While melatonin is not all that well understood, scientists believe that its effects are mostly restorative. It promotes sleep (which explains its use in sleeping pills), is a good antioxidant, appears to be able to inhibit cancer, and blocks the negative effects of estrogens. Okay, so now let's hold this thought for a second.
The other thing I learned is that all these cells doing all this work in our bodies generates our body's own electromagnetic field (EMF). It's not surprising that nerves and muscles require electromagnetic energy to function and do their jobs properly. So, it should not be surprising that man-made electrical fields can interfere (or at least impact) our own EMFs...and that constant exposure to large power lines, computers, or electric blankets can produce negative effects. EMFs are known to inhibit the body's nighttime release of melatonin. But if melatonin can be anti-cancer, then couldn't it be putting ourselves at increased risk of cancer if we disrupt our natural sleep-wake cycles or stay on the computer too long?
As a matter of fact, one study showed a correlation between breast cancer incidence and exposure to large power lines. And another study showed that there was an increased risk of breast cancer for women working night shifts (presumably the theory goes that their melatonin levels are off because they're working against the body's natural cycle). So, there may be some food for thought there.
Now, back to how I've offended my pineal gland. I've been unable to sleep well lately...I'll go to bed early enough (11pm or so), but I'll toss and turn and flail around like a beached whale and next thing I know, I stare bleakly at the clock and it says 2:00am. In fact, my IPod said it was 2:41 am when I turned it off last night. And here I was, up at 8:18am again this morning. My theory is that it's because I am glued to the computer all day long. At the spa, I sit in front of a computer. When I come home, I sit in front of the computer. Even when I'm watching TV or having dinner, I have a laptop on me! So I think I've screwed around with my EMF, which has screwed up my melatonin, which has caused me to be unable to sleep.
I am going to go cold turkey on computer use for a while (especially at night). No more after 8 or 9pm...it'll be hard to resist checking emails, but I need my sleep back!!