Light is a very powerful drug, or so it has been concluded by new research that determines it is indeed bad for your mental well being to leave the TV on while you rest, the same is true for computers or even your fancy phone. In effect doing this will put you at risk from suffering from depression, or if you are depressed it will be of zero benefit towards your recovery.
The research to this end has been conducted using hamsters, but it combines with other research that was conducted with humans and animals, this research has concluded that for all creatures of this ilk exposure even to a low level of light can lead to a plethora of ailments.
The health consequences are inclusive of some cancers, disorders pertaining to sleep and even weight gain.
The author of the study one Tracy Bedrosian, a doctoral student of neuroscience at The Ohio State University in Columbus said, “We’ve set up a link between exposure to light at night with depression in these animals, If it does apply to humans, people might want to think about getting dark shades, not leaving the TV on all night long, and making sure to give themselves darkness when they go to sleep.”
Whilst it is evident that the numbers now suffering from depression has seen a steady growth in recent decades, it has been difficult for doctors to really pin point any one definitive reason for the increase. It has been suspected however that light disturbance may be one of these reasons.
It seems natural to follow on that this may be one of the problems behind the surge given that people have become increasingly exposed to different sources of light not natural in origin, over the past century. There is the constant whirring of computers in bedrooms and people are increasingly tending to fall asleep without turning off the TV.
It has been determined through investigation also that those who are earning their living working night shifts are far more likely to suffer from a sleep disorder than those who do not, and gain rest when they should be getting that rest as dictated by nature.
The test was conducted using 16 hamsters in all to find this link between depression and light. The Ohio state University researchers placed all of the animals under bright lights for 16 hours a day. Half of these hamsters were then allowed to experience true darkness whilst the other 8 were exposed to light that would be consistent with the glow of the television in a darkened room.
After 8 weeks it was found that those who were forced to withstand the low level light in conjunction with their 16 hours a day light outline scored lower in a number of mood tests. The results were made public at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in San Diego.
The signs of mood are difficult to determine in animals but the hamsters drank 20% less sugar water than the group who were permitted a rest phase in absolute darkness. This lack of drinking it is suggested by the scientists is confirmation that the hamsters just weren’t getting the same enjoyment out of the things they used to enjoy, what you may recognise as a symptom of depression.
It was even noted that the low level light exposed hamsters actually gave up their swimming activities more readily than the other group also. Scans of the brains of the hamsters revealed a stark difference in the hippocampus region of the brain between the two groups.
The group who had the extra light had fewer of the hair like growths (dendric spines) growing in this region of the mind, indicative that there was not as much communication going on between the nerve cells pertaining to this region. This very same low density of hair like growths of the hippocampus has been observed in humans suffering from major depression.
An explanation has been offered by the researches as to why this may be the case. It is they say in a hormone called melatonin. Once we are in a state of darkness production of this hormone heightens in the body, this hormone has broad influence on us. It has antioxidant qualities, it promotes a dropping off into sleep, it allows for other hormones to be released in a controlled fashion, and indeed it is a regulatory hormone for the circadian rhythms.
The wrong amount of this hormone can be released even after experiencing a small volume of ambient light at night time, so too what is produced might come to us when it is not needed, which can lead to many problems for the human as well as the animal. This is according to Phyllis Zee, director of the Sleep Disorders Program at Northwestern University in Chicago. Other studies have also implicated that problems are created in the body pertaining to mood disorders sleep disturbance and diabetes as a result of misappropriation of this hormone.
“They’re all somehow related, and perhaps melatonin helps explain why there is this very strong relationship between depression, sleep, and circadian rhythms, as well as obesity and metabolism. Light affects so many biological systems, light is a very powerful drug for the brain.”
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