Night light

We all have a largely negative view of the dark, in fact some of us even fear it. When was the last time you heard someone say, “I was so happy to be kept to in the dark about that” or “Fantastic! That was the darkest day of my life”? We equate darkness with negativity and bad events but is that really fair? Is darkness all bad? The answer of course is that it is not and in fact a new report has highlighted exactly how sick a lack of darkness and exposure to the wrong sort of light may be making you.

The researchers from the University of Connecticut and Yale University put together a new analysis of everything we know about light exposure and our health. They make the point that exposure to the type of light emitted by devices like phones, tablets, and computers is not good late at night. One study for instance compared people who read e-books before bed to those who read “old-fashioned” paper books and it found that those using e-readers had delayed melatonin release. Melatonin is a chemical that is vital to your body clock and if it is delayed in release then your body does not prepare properly for sleep.

The researchers also point out that there is growing evidence that exposure to light is linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, breast cancer, and possibly other cancers.

The recommendation from these researchers is not that you need to turn off all light as soon as the sun goes down but that you should reduce your exposure to the blue wavelength of light from devices later in the evening. In preference you need dimmer, longer wavelength light to give your body clock the appropriate signals. More body-clock friendly light is redder light, like you might get from a fire or an incandescent bulb.

So if you can possibly bear it, make your last social interactions early in the evening and as you approach bedtime instead of checking what hilarious picture of a cat your friend Ted found and decided to share, why not engage with the musings a master novelist? Your melatonin will be the better for it.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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