Light at Night and Depression

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • Some sleep problems respond favorably to bright light therapy, especially light applied first thing in the morning. Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) causes one to have trouble waking in the morning and falling to sleep at night. This disorder responds well to early morning bright light therapy. Advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS) reverses the symptoms of DSPS and is one of the few sleep disorders that may respond better to evening bright light therapy.


    Shift work disorder and jet lag both respond well to bright light therapy. What the bright light does is reset the Circadian rhythm. A Circadian rhythm disorder, if not reset, can lead to several health problems, including depression

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    However, a recent research project at Ohio State University suggests that exposure to light during sleep may increase depression. Even light as dim as a nightlight can interfere with the secretion of melatonin, the hormone that helps the body know when it's time to sleep or when it's time to wake up. An article in Reader's Digest warns that artificial light at night may contribute to breast and prostate cancers, and even weight gain.


    Some suggestions for avoiding the dangers of artificial light at night;

    • Sleep in a completely dark room. Windows should be covered and all lights off.
    • If needed, for safety, use a small night light in the bathroom to avoid turning on the bright lights.
    • In the morning, a dose of bright light will help you wake up, whether it's sunlight (best) or some other form of bright light, including a full spectrum bright light therapy lamp.
Published On: November 22, 2010