Today's world is awash with artificial light, from the screens of our computers and phones to the bright lights of our cities. While artificial light has made our lives more convenient, it has profoundly impacted our health and wellness. We'll explore the science behind artificial light and its effects on our health and well-being.
The Science behind Artificial Light
Artificial light is created by artificial sources such as lightbulbs, screens, and streetlights. It differs from natural light in both its spectral composition and intensity. Natural light, also known as sunlight, is a mixture of different wavelengths of light, while a single wavelength, such as blue light, often dominates artificial light.
Blue light is particularly problematic as it has been shown to disrupt the circadian rhythm, the internal body clock that regulates our sleep and wake cycles. The light influences the circadian rhythm we are exposed to, and blue light, in particular, has been shown to suppress the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, making it harder for us to fall asleep at night.
Impacts of Artificial Light on Health
1: Disruptions in Sleep
Artificial light can disrupt our sleep patterns by suppressing melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. According to a study of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, exposure to blue light in the evening can delay the release of melatonin by up to 90 minutes. It can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to sleep deprivation.
2: Increased Risk of Chronic Diseases
Prolonged exposure to artificial light can have negative effects on our health. It increases the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. One study found that women who work night shifts have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than women who work during the day.
3: Impact on Mental Health
Artificial light can also impact our mental health. Research has shown that exposure to artificial light in the evening can increase feelings of anxiety and depression. Additionally, it can disrupt our circadian rhythm, leading to feelings of fatigue and disorientation.
4: Effects on the Eyes and Vision
Exposure to artificial light can cause eye strain, fatigue, and headaches. It is particularly true for individuals who spend long hours looking at screens. In addition to harming our retinas, blue light from screens is a major contributor to age-related macular degeneration, a main cause of visual loss.
Effects of Artificial Light on Wellness
1: Decreased Productivity and Concentration
Artificial light can also harm our productivity and concentration. Research has shown that exposure to artificial light in the evening can lead to decreased alertness and cognitive function. It can also disrupt our sleep patterns, leaving us tired and sluggish.
2: Increased Stress and Fatigue
Exposure to artificial light can also increase stress levels and fatigue. A study of Environmental Psychology found that individuals who work in environments with bright artificial light experience higher stress levels than those who work in environments with natural light.
Mitigating the Effects of Artificial Light
- Use blue light filters on electronic devices
- Limit exposure to artificial light in the evenings
- Incorporate natural light into daily life
- Practice good sleep hygiene
- Use adjustable lighting with dimming options
- Invest in full-spectrum light bulbs for indoor lighting
- Take regular breaks from screen time
- Spend time outside during daylight hours and engage in physical activities.
It's important for us to be conscious of the impact of artificial light on our lives and to make informed choices that promote long-term health and happiness. Let's work together to create a more balanced relationship with light and find a way to live in harmony with the natural world.