Too much light at night makes us sick!

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Turn off the lights! At least the ones that aren’t necessary. Because researchers have found that excessive exposure to light at night can not “only” lead to sleep disorders but also significantly increases the risk of diseases such as obesity (severe overweight), depression and diabetes.

For the past ten years, the amount of electric lighting used at night has increased by almost ten percent yearly. This mainly affects city dwellers worldwide, i.e. some 4.4 billion people. Too much artificial light hurts the biorhythm and, thus, bodily functions clocked by the day-night cycle.

Artificial light impairs sleep and hormone production, moreover, creates stress. Even visual stimuli unnoticed by sleepers can set processes that disrupt recovery and repair mechanisms in motion. Cardiovascular problems are also common, and the immune system is weakened. Light is also considered a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression, reports Prof. Dr. Eva Schernhammer, Center for Public Health, MedUni Vienna. “The studies on the effects of nocturnal light exposure paint a worrying picture,” she stresses. She has screened and summarized papers on light pollution with an international research team.

The term light pollution has become established in science as the sum of all adverse effects of excessive exposure to light at night on the environment and humans.

The scientists urgently call for further research, including, for example, considerations of individual light exposure, even indoors. A precise study situation is necessary to formulate reliable recommendations for healthier outdoor lighting at night and convince those with political responsibility of measures to reduce light pollution.

What can be done about light pollution?

According to the researchers, nighttime lighting bans, for example, at landmarks, would be a step in the right direction. But everyone can also prevent light pollution at home by using amber-coloured, warm white light sources in rooms instead of blue ones, darkening their bedrooms well and not leaving appliances in standby mode.

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