In metropolitan as well as more rural environments, it can be difficult to experience a night of pure darkness. Light pouring in from street lamps, issuing forth from appliances and television screens, or accumulating from the advertisements and lit windows of buildings can seem like an invasive force–although many people are so accustomed to a constant state of light intrusion that they fail to notice any problem at all. This issue may be a concern for mental health, as the ability to align one’s sleeping and working cycles with the natural rhythm of the earth has often been cited as of the utmost importance for overall well-being. Supporting this theory, a study performed at the Ohio State University and recently presented in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience has tested the effect of constant light exposure on mice.
The study involved two laboratory environments; one in which mice were exposed to artificial light without interruption throughout the day, and one in which an opaque tube, with dark conditions inside, was present, allowing mice to enter at any time. The researchers found that those mice housed in the constantly light environment exhibited stronger depressive symptoms than did the mice with the option to escape into darkness.
The prevalence of modern “light pollution” may have much to do with rising rates of depression and other mental health issues, suggest the researchers. As a growing number of people find themselves both constantly exposed to light, especially light from artificial sources, as well as stricken with negative thoughts and feelings associated with depression, the need for more extensive research on the interactions between light and mental health is clear.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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