A recently published experiment concluded that exposure to light for long periods of time can deteriorate your health.
The study (conducted with mice) showed health risks from exposure to continuous lighting. This artificial/indoor light, over a six-month period, created weakness and inflammation. The weakness resulted from deterioration of muscle and bone mass. And inflammation, as we know, can lead to all types of autoimmune conditions as well as cancer.
This information may be quite valuable for those who work night shifts, hospital patients, and even newborns in the neonatal. Understanding the possible health risks from prolonged, continual periods in light are important. Eye masks can be placed on the infants, and adults can make sure their sleep time is kept dark. Even with your eyes closed, light can seep through eyelids, affecting the quality of sleep.
Beyond that, however, this information may benefit all of us. Are the findings of this study predicated on the amount of light? Or is it the disruption in the natural sleep pattern that is putting health at risk?
In this study, all of the mice were affected health-wise in one way or another. Some lost strength, others lost bone mass (just like in early stages of osteoporosis.) The original assumption was that the mice became frail from too much light. But mice are nocturnal. It occurred to other scientists that this experiment simply furthered all the theories about circadian rhythms.
Our bodies have an internal master clock. It runs on a 24-hour cycle and it’s called our circadian clock. It’s the timekeeper for our circadian rhythms. Our rhythms are the up-and-down flow of our hormones depending on whether its day or night. These hormones guide us to have energy during the day and relax us to sleep at night. If our circadian rhythms are out-of-whack, our sleep-wake cycles are disrupted, which puts our health at risk.
The good news is that the researchers discovered that some of the health risks were reversible. Once the rodents’ internal clocks ceased to be disrupted, they began thriving. Given ample amounts of light and dark, their natural circadian rhythm returned almost instantly. Their muscles and bones regained strength over a couple short weeks.
These details may once again be pointing to the dire importance of sleep to maintain optimum health. Shift-workers, jet-setters, and all-nighter college students especially should keep in mind that light will disturb their circadian rhythm. Research suggests that sleep patterns should remain routine, whether you work in the day or night.
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