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Can Artificial Light Cause Us Harm?

 

 

The Western World today is full of artificial light (even during daylight hours) meaning our sleep is increasingly under threat. 

Many of us don’t get the recommended seven to nine hours we need each night and struggle to get up in the mornings especially when we have to face a day of work.

But it is not only our quantity of sleep that is affected.

Since the discovery that light (particularly blue light, emanating from devices like smartphones) can affect our biological clocks, evidence has been building that exposure to even low levels of light in the evening or at the night is disrupting our sleep quality too.

Our sleep quality and quantity is not the only side effect of artificial light

Unfortunately, artificial light can cause us harm.  Such harmful effects on our human health include:

  • An increased risk for sleep disorders including insomnia, depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more.
  • The disruption of the human body clock and our hormonal system.
  • An increased risk of circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders.  This is  where the circadian rhythm is misaligned with the natural light-dark cycle.
  • Eye degeneration and even cataracts.
  • Headaches and cognitive decline.
  • Accelerated aging.
  • Hormonal disruption.

And then there is the issue of hazards for the eyes and skin.  You can find out more about these hazards at this link: actinic UV-hazard, UVA-hazard, blue-light hazard, and IR-hazard.

Our current sources of light

Artificial light is composed of visible light as well as some ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiations.

In the past, we relied on incandescent bulbs to provide artificial light in our homes but now these are being phased out and we are encouraged to use LEDs  (light emitting diodes) and/ or CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps).  

When natural light versus artificial light

The problem with LEDs is that they emit too much blue and green while CFLs are considered very unnatural.

Candlelight and incandescent bulbs give a more natural form of visible light similar to a sunset glow.

One bit of good news

The body has a lot of protective measures against lights that are too bright or too hot. 

These include:

  • Blinking
  • Pain
  • Natural aversion from bright lights and pupil constriction

However, damage can still occur as a result of overexposure.

We might well have to reconsider our whole attitude to artificial light and what we can do to improve the situation? 

 

 

SOURCES:

 

Increased risk for sleep disorders, depression, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer


Disruption of the human body clock and the hormonal system

 

Increased risk of circadian rhythm sleep–wake disorders, where the circadian rhythm is misaligned with the natural light-dark cycle