Feeling depressed? Sleeping with your TV or smart phone on could be a contributing factor. A new study suggests that exposure to dim lights when it should be dark may put you at risk for depression, according to two recent articles, on discovery.com and the UK’s Daily Mail. Light exposure at the wrong times of day has been also linked to many health problems. In the study, hamsters that were exposed to round-the-clock dim light produced more of an immune system molecule in their brains called TNF, which is linked to inflammation. Previous studies have shown a strong association between chronic inflammation and depression.
“The results we found in hamsters are consistent with what we know about depression in humans,” Tracy Bedrosian, a doctoral student in neuroscience at Ohio State University in Columbus, told the Daily Mail.
She added, “The good news is that people who stay up late in front of the TV and the computer may be able to undo some of the harmful effects just by going back to a regular light-dark cycle and minimizing their exposure to artificial light at night.”
Major depression has grown more common in recent decades
Bedrosian explained in the discovery.com article that while there is probably no single reason for this trend, researchers suspect that light disturbances may play a part. People today are exposed to far more sources of artificial light at night than they were 100 years ago, whether from computers in their bedrooms or falling asleep with the TV on.
Studies have also found that people who work night shifts have higher rates of mood disorders compared to people who sleep when their bodies are supposed to sleep.
Light exposure at night linked to moods
To explain how light exposure at night might affect the moods of both hamsters and people, the researchers focused on the hormone melatonin. Produced as soon as our bodies sense darkness, melatonin acts as an antioxidant, regulates our circadian rhythms, helps us fall asleep and controls the release of other hormones.
When even a small amount of light is present when the body is trying to sleep, it might release the wrong amount of melatonin or it might get produced at the wrong time, leading to any number of problems including mood disorders, diabetes and sleep disturbances.
Neurologist Phyllis Zee, director of the Sleep Disorders Program at Northwestern University in Chicago, explained in the discover.com article that there is a very strong relationship between melatonin and “depression, sleep and circadian rhythms, as well as obesity and metabolism.”
“Light affects so many biological systems,” she added. “It is a very powerful drug for the brain.”
For better health, sleep in total darkness
To help you get the kind of sleep that studies have shown to be the most beneficial, we at Cabeau would like to suggest the Midnight Magic Sleep Mask. Because the adjustable nose bridge allows you to bend and mold the mask to your unique facial features, you are actually able to sleep in complete darkness, whether traveling or at home in your own bed.
Here’s to good health, here’s to good sleep.