Staying up late to finish paperwork or that Korean drama you’re obsessed with is not good for your health. Aside from depriving you of sleep, your nocturnal habits may also be messing with you psychologically. According to a new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, people who spend too much time exposed to artificial light may be more likely to become depressed.
Researchers from the Ohio State University Medical Center found that hamsters who were regularly exposed to dim light in the evening showed symptoms of depression within just a few weeks. Compared to hamsters who had normal light-dark exposure, these hamsters were less interested in physical activity. They showed little interest in sugar-water and seemed to be more distressed when placed in water. In addition, the changes in their brain’s hippocampus were similar to the changes seen in depressed people.
However, depression isn’t the only probable effect of prolonged exposure to light. The American Medical Association also declared that nighttime lighting may also cause disruptions in the body’s circadian rhythms, which then affect hormonal reactions. Under artificial lighting, the body tends to suppress the release of melatonin, which is useful for fighting off tumor growth and cancers.
But there seems to be a way to reverse the side effects of light exposure. Tracy Bedrosian, first author of the new study, says, "People who stay up late in front of the television and 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."
While you can’t totally eliminate nighttime lighting, you can still do your best to avoid them. If you can finish your work early, go straight to bed once you've gone home, had dinner, and had an hour or two of leisure time. Cut back on your late-night Internet or TV hours. As much as possible, avoid seeing the wee hours of the morning. Work may be important, but you need to take better care of yourself if you want to remain healthy enough to stay in your profession for a long time.
(Photo by Jesper Egelund via Flickr Creative Commons)