Did you know that when you turn on a light to do a little bedtime reading, you are putting your health at risk? Nighttime lighting can throw off your sleep schedule and disrupt your body’s internal clock. Being deprived of sleep can lead to illness and diseases like depression, memory loss, cancer, and more.
Potential hazards from lighting
Exposure to certain lights has been scientifically shown to disrupt sleep, alter circadian rhythms, and exacerbate migraine symptoms. It also inhibits the body’s ability to produce the hormone melatonin.
Melatonin is a big part of the body’s process in preparing for sleep. It makes you tired and decreases your alertness. Low levels of melatonin have been linked to metabolic syndrome and obesity.
Circadian rhythm is the technical name for your body’s internal clock. It is a 24-hour cycle that controls when your body sleeps, along with functions like growth, blood pressure, appetite, body temperature, and the release of some hormones.
“The primary human concerns with nighttime lighting include… potential carcinogenic effects related to melatonin suppression, especially breast cancer. Other diseases that may be exacerbated by circadian disruption include obesity, diabetes, depression and mood disorders, and reproductive problems,” wrote the American Medical Association in its official statement regarding nighttime lighting.
Biological lighting to combat negative health effects of improper lighting
The Lighting Science Group, a Florida-based lighting company, produces a product line of biological lighting that they claim is better for human health than traditional bulbs. They base this claim on the idea that the proper kind of light for the time of day is beneficial to health.
The Lighting Science Group has products that are supposed to create different effects, such as inducing better sleep or promoting wakefulness. The company believes that the public should be aware of the serious health problems associated with exposure to light at the wrong time of day.
“We are hopeful that the industry will follow us on this,” said Fred Maxik, the company’s chief science officer. “We are saying to the public this is something you should be aware of. We aren’t saying, ‘Don’t use light,’ we are saying ‘Why take the risk?'”
The company has announced that all of its products will be labeled with warning notices that “exposure to certain electric lights may cause biological effects, some potentially disruptive.” The notices will also contain website information listing possible health issues that can be caused from exposure to artificial light.
Harmful effects can come from more than just exposure to light bulbs. High energy light sources, such as computers, TV screens, tablets, and smartphones, can greatly disrupt your sleep and health.
“And think about how many people look at Facebook at 2 a.m. That is way more disruptive, but this is certainly a good start [and] we need to keep increasing awareness in a larger population that light at the wrong time of day can harm you,” commented Paolo Sassone-Corsi, director of the Center of Epigenetics and Metabolism at the School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine. Sassone-Corsi has authored studies on circadian rhythms, metabolism, and the negative effect on health from artificial light source exposure.
Being exposed to light sources that stimulate the body during evening hours will definitely upset your body’s natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness. Consider setting aside an hour or two before bedtime to turn off the TV, computer, or phone, and begin to unwind for bed with a hot bath and candlelight.
— Kristy Toth
Kristy is a freelance writer with more than twenty years of print and digital media writing experience and over seven years of university study in journalism, broadcasting, and mass communications. She specializes in health and wellness, alternative healing methods, news, the environment, and lifestyles. She currently resides in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with her family and pets.