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Dim Light at Night May Increase Depression: Sleep Apnea

According to scientists at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, exposure to dim light at night can interact with sleep apnea and lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression in mice. This research suggests the millions of Americans who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) should sleep in a very dark room.

"Although it is unclear at the present time whether sleep apnea causes depression, both conditions are commonly seen together in patients. Our research suggests that sleeping even with a minimum amount of light may increase symptoms of depression in those with sleep apnea," says Dr. Ulysses Magalang, director of Ohio State’s Sleep Disorders Center and a co-author of the study.

Sleep duration has been hypothesized to influence both melatonin levels and cancer risk, and laboratory studies indicate it may influence melatonin levels. Nighttime light exposure suppresses the production of melatonin that controls sleep and wake cycles.

Suggestions for improving sleep and reducing light exposure at night:

  • Use drapes or shades to block outside light from traffic, streetlights, and neighboring buildings/houses
  • Turn off the television, computer, smart phones/tablets, or other electronic devices before going to sleep
  • Choose clocks or night lights with red lighting instead of blue or green. It is well established that short-wavelength light is the most melatonin-suppressive: television, computer screens, and tablets/cellphones.
  • Reduce exposure by utilizing a program that makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day. The program called f.lux can be downloaded to your computer and devices and may have a significant effect on your melatonin secretion when using these devices at night.

Get a better night’s rest and reduce your exposure to devices and light that impairs your sleep.


photo credit: fakelvis via photopin cc