What Light at Night May Do to Mental Health

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 John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

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  • Tommy M

    October 24th, 2009 at 2:27 AM

    I cannot even afford to sleep with even a bed-light…i need complete darkness to have a good night’s sleep:)

  • Chase

    October 24th, 2009 at 9:18 AM

    Looks like too much of anything is not good! You know there are some people who can’t stand all of the hours without light in the winter- now it turns out that too much of that light that they crave can be a bad thing too. Everything in moderation looks like it is proving to be true everytime!


    October 25th, 2009 at 2:29 AM

    Light is a big problem while trying to fall asleep. If I sleep exposed to light, which is very difficult in the first place, I feel a burning sensation in my eyes when I wake up and also feel sleepy no matter how long I’ve been sleeping for… another distraction that a study can be conducted on is sound at night…

  • jimmy field

    October 26th, 2009 at 4:03 AM

    God made day and night. Day to work and night to rest. When He wants us to sleep in the dark, and when we are naturally meant to be that way, how can we adjust to something different…? It is better if each one of us understands that whatever we have is the best for us.

  • Rick Hardy

    October 28th, 2009 at 5:47 PM

    I knew it could be extremely disturbing and even an irritating thing to encounter light while trying to have a good night’s sleep, but was unaware that it would have any effect on the person’s mental health… but now that I do, I shall make sure I sleep in complete darkness.

  • Noel

    November 3rd, 2009 at 2:20 AM

    We dont take noise pollution or air pollution lightly. Why is it that people give more importance to physical well being than mental well being.

  • Maggie

    November 3rd, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    When the police use light to keep criminals awake so that they would confess eventually, I am sure we should have a fair idea about how bad light at night is. I have never made it a practise to have a night light in my kid’s room. I think kids sleep more soundly in the dark.

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