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Artificial Light at Night May Lower Sleep Quality, Raise Health Risks

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  • Melatonin

American Academy of Sleep Medicine  |  Jan 13, 2011
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Turn on the lights and turn off your health, a new study reports. Researchers claim exposure to bright room lighting at night can ruin your sleep and increase risk for high blood pressure and diabetes.

The findings show the lights can suppress melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone essential for the regulation of the sleep-wake cycle. Basically, without melatonin, you won’t feel as tired at bedtime.

The effect is similar to what happens if you watch television or stare at a computer screen before trying to sleep. Earlier this year the Sleep Education Blog warned readers about using an iPad to read books or surf the web before bed.

Another vital function of melatonin is to lower your blood pressure, body temperature and glucose levels. When melatonin is suppressed, the risk for conditions caused by high blood pressure and high glucose levels rises.

The study involved 116 young adults who were exposed to light for eight hours before bedtime for five days straight. Half of the participants were exposed to dim light as a control. The researchers took the subjects' blood plasma to measure for melatonin levels.

The subjects who were exposed to bright light had shorter melatonin duration, due to suppression.

The study raises some questions about the type of environments where we spend our evening hours. The reality is that it may be difficult to avoid bright light entirely. Maybe it’s time to utilize the dimmer switch.