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Exposure to Light at Night Could Lead to Depression

Update Date: Jul 25, 2012 01:03 PM EDT

In the age on the laptop, smartphones and tablets, it's hard not to lay in bed while playing with the technological devices. But, a new animal research from the Ohio State University Medical Center found that exposure to dim lighting at night such as that generated by a TV screen, computer or night-light may lead to depressive symptoms.

The  study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Researchers found that hamsters with prolonged exposure to dim light experienced reduced physical activity and showed signs of depression.  The hamsters should less interest in sugar water, something they love, and were distressed when placed in water.

 "The results we found in hamsters are consistent with what we know about depression in humans," First author Tracy Bedrosian said.

The American Medical Association previously reported that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or worsen sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents.  This effect can be minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment.

Chronic exposure to LAN is linked to increased risk of breast cancer, obesity and mood disorders

Researchers say that 99 percent of people in the United States and Europe deal with light pollution on a nightly basis, which could be the cause of the increase of major depression over the last few decades.  They also added that further research is necessary to corroborate extent of the link. 

The negative effects of exposure to light at night are reversible if that exposure is decreased. Within two weeks of returning the hamsters to a standard light/dark cycle, the hamsters regained their taste for sugar and were more willing to swim.

"The good news is that people who stay up late in front of the television and computer may be able to undo some of the harmful effects just by going back to a regular light-dark cycle and minimizing their exposure to artificial light at night," Bedrosian says. "That's what the results we found in hamsters would suggest."

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