The bright lights of big cities may be contributing to our national sleep deficit, says new research released Tuesday.
Over eight years, Stanford neurologist Dr. Maurice Ohayon and his team interviewed 15,863 people from cities large and small about their sleep patterns. Then they used data from the Defense Department’s Meteorological Satellite Program to plot the level of nighttime light the interviewees were routinely exposed to.
They were more likely to complain of daytime drowsiness and to complain of poor sleep quality (29% vs. 16%). And they were more likely to wake up in the middle of night confused (19% vs. 13%).
People who slept in areas with high light exposure got, on average, 10 fewer minutes of sleep per night compared to those who slept in low-light locales — 402 minutes compared with 412.
Ohayon, who will present his findings next month to the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Vancouver, suggested that our 24/7 society might demand nighttime lighting. But if further research confirms that it’s cutting into the quality and quantity of sleep we get, we may need blackout shades and sleep blinders to ensure we get our shut-eye.
Inadequate slumber is, in turn, linked to obesity, metabolic disturbance and poorer overall health. Researchers are keen to illuminate the complex relationship between sleep, light and health, and to glean whether more darkness might bring better health.
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