There is another reason to quit that computer game and go to sleep besides having to go to work in the morning. Scientists from State University Medical Center discovered that dim light like the one coming from your computer monitor or TV can make you depressed.
Circadian rhythms are mental, physical and behavioral changes that follow a cycle of one Earth day or about 24 hours. Circadian rhythms are driven by many different processes in our system, but are also triggered by light and darkness of our environment. Animals and even plants also respond to the circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythms can affect our sleep-wake cycles, release of various hormones, temperature of the body and many other functions. Light is the main switch that turns on or off genes that control our internal clocks.
Ohio State University Medical Center linked depression and too much dim light at night by studying hamsters, but their findings are consistent with the information already known about how too much ambient light at night affects humans. Depression and mood disorders are not the only problems we can expect if we “burn the midnight oil.”
To follow our natural circadian rhythm, we need to spend certain amount of time in the darkness. If not, our bodies do not release enough melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain. Besides regulating our internal body clock, melatonin”s main job is to help regulate other hormones, including female reproductive hormones. As the darkness falls, our body starts producing more melatonin, making us sleepy. Artificial light drastically changes this.
The lack of melatonin is linked to the accelerated aging., tumors, cancers, obesity, diabetes and various reproductive issues. The American Medical Association released earlier this year a full summary of adverse health effects from nighttime lighting.
The only good news is that the changes can be reversed fairly quickly, once we return to the normal night-light cycle. Our bodies need about eight hours of darkness, which corresponds to the number of hours of sleep we need for optimal health. So, turn off your TV, your computer and even all those blinking lights from the alarm clock and other gadgets. It took our bodies millions of years to establish the circadian rhythm, and there is no sense playing with it just because we invented electricity.
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