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Seeing Things in a Whole New Light – Giving the Paleo Treatment to Sunglasses

by Suz on October 1, 2011 · 4 comments

in Sun

During the three years I’ve lived in Australia, I’ve spent a lot of time wearing Sunglasses (or, as they’re more commonly known in Australia, Sunnies).  Even in the winter here, it’s often very bright and sunny (even if the air is cool).  In the summer, it gets really bright and sunny.  Sunglasses – well, that’s what they’re for isn’t it, wearing in the sunshine?

The more I’ve found out about Paleo, the more I question other aspects of my life, sunglasses being one such example.

Whilst early examples of sunglasses have been seen as far back at the 12th century, they didn’t become common until the early 1900′s.  That’s not even five generations ago.  Whilst correlation is certainly not causation, it is interesting to note that 25-35% of people of a European descent have Myopia (short sightedness) today, whereas a study of hunter gather tribes revealed Myopia in just 0.4% of the population (1) As well as diet, could widespread use of sunglasses be responsible for the widespread decline in eyesight?

Some estimates suggest Indigenous Australians have been here for up to 70,000 years, surviving for 69,900 without needing sunglasses?  Why are they now they essential for optical health?

Sunlight entering the eyes takes two courses – one for vision, the other goes to the hypothalamus gland.  This pathway seems to have a crucial role in the body clock, energy and hormone production (including melatonin).  It would make sense for the body to use this pathway to regulate circadian rhythms.  Circadian rhythms ensure sleep and wake cycles occur properly, and that the body is in tune with seasonality.  Therefore doesn’t it stands to reason that wearing sunglasses, and reducing the sunlight entering your eyes, will impact these functions?

This would tie in with anecdotal observations I’ve heard that when not wearing sunglasses, people get less sunburnt, then when they do wear sunglasses.  Perhaps wearing sunglasses also leads to people staying out in the sun for longer than they would without sunglasses?

In the spirit of n=1 self experimentation, I’m going to wean off the sunglasses this summer and see what (if any) impact it has on me.  Will my new found improvements in my sleeping patterns improve further still?  Will my eyesight improve?

I’ll report back in a future post any differences I’ve noticed.

Do you wear sunglasses?  Do you think it is foolish not to wear sunglasses throughout the Australian Summer?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below!

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Cassiel October 4, 2011 at 1:20 am

Hi, I just stumbled on your blog recently — it’s nice to find more paleo/primal types in Australia! :D

I’d actually be really curious to hear about your experimentation with sunglasses as well! I do agree that the longer I follow a dietary and lifestyle choice that questions CW, it makes me want to question any CW that I come across!

That said, I’m very short sighted, and started to become short sighted at age 16… but I never wore sunglasses until some years after that. When I was a kid my family spent tons of time outdoors, bushwalking, hiking, abseiling, kayaking, etc, etc, and we never wore sunglasses. I spent a large amount of time squinting at the sunlight, to be sure, but no sunglasses.

When I got older (after I was already wearing glasses for short-sightedness), I found my eyes got more and more sensitive to the sun, until they would actually be watering and painful in bright sunlight. That’s when I started wearing sunglasses.

But I ended up going with the theory that having pale coloured eyes meant I was more sensitive to the sun. All the people around me with pale eyes would scrabble for sunglasses, like me, whereas my brown-eyed friends never felt the need for them. When I lived in Japan for three years, the only people I ever saw wearing sunglasses were other foreigners. None of my (brown-eyed) Japanese friends felt the need for them.

Of course, I don’t have anything besides personal experience to back up my theory! All I know is what I see and experience. That’s why I’m curious about your experiment!

I’ll also note that while I found the sun bright in Japan, I felt less need for sunglasses there than in Australia, and never wore them there. And I have a few Japanese friends in Australia who wear sunglasses here, but never thought to wear them in Japan. Perhaps the Australian sun itself is somewhat to blame? Indigenous Australians had more time to evolve to be suited to the life here than us imported whites (and Asians, and so on) after all!

Anyway, rambling on now, but I just wanted to say hi, and that I’m interested in your theory and your experiment! This coming summer will be my first in Australia after about three and a half years in Japan, so maybe I’ll try it without sunglasses too and see how I go! :D

Reply

Suz October 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Hi Cassiel, Welcome back to Australia!
That’s really interesting.
I wonder if your eye sight would change if you spent as much time outsdoors, as you did when you were a child? All that natural light must have a huge effect?
Actually, I have read a few things about eye colour, that could well be the case.
I’ll let you know how it goes!

Reply

Sandie October 6, 2011 at 10:08 am

Hi Suz,

Just found your blog through Mark’s Daily Apple (from your posting of StrawberryCoconut icecream – YUM- think I’ll be trying that). As Cassiel said, it’s nice to find more primal people here in Oz.

I usually wear sunnies only when I’m driving and it’s a very bright day. I needed to get reading glasses (and not very strong magnification – 1.75) quite a few years ago when my arms were no longer long enough (I was approaching 50 at the time). Since then my presciption has not changed. In fact I can still read in bright light without the glasses. My friends of a similar age who wear sunnies whenever they’re outside and have done for years are all moving into bifocals and multifocals and continually getting new scripts for reading glasses. Now it could just be luck of the draw/genetics or it could be the extra light I exposed my eyes to by wearing sunnies only infrequently. Very anecdotal – as a science teacher I’m asking myself “and what were the variables controlled?”

Digging deep into the recesses of my brain I remember about twenty years ago, reading a book on improving vision naturally. One of the exercises was to close your eyes and look at the sun for some time (can’t remember the time required). Whatever it was I did it and the other exercises about changing focus from close to distant when reading or watching TV or working on the computer. The focus changing probably helped, and I get my students to do it now.

Enough babble. I’m glad I’ve found your blog and I’ll be interested to see how you go without sunnies this summer (assuming we get a summer – spring is a little disappointing this year with very little in the way of bluesky days so far).

Sandie

Reply

Suz October 6, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Hi Sandie, great to have another Aussie on board – you know, I’m starting to think there are a lot more of us over here than I first thought!

It’s so good you haven’t had to get a new script for so long – there has to be something in it. I’d love to see more controlled studies on these kinds of things, though sadly as there is no money in it for drugs companies I guess studies aren’t likely!

That’s great you’re a science teacher, do you have free rein to put an evolutionary science perspective on what you teach?

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