If you’re parked in front of a late-night internet marathon, watching Weeds on Netflix right now… are you feeling a bit down?
In recent years, the habit of late-night screen-staring has become ever more ingrained with the introduction of tablets, smartphones and small, glowing screens of all descriptions that we collectively lock eyes on constantly, shutting down oftentimes after our heads hit the pillow as we take a few more turns in Words With Friends or read a few chapters on the wonderfully backlit Kindle for iPhone.
Few among us can say that we shut down devices like iPhones, iPads and our personal computing devices at a reasonable hour and retire to cook a wholesome dinner, read a book and play a family game of Jenga.
For the most part, we’re all stuck to our screens like they have the cure for cancer and obesity behind them — but this constant use may be contributing to negative mental health effects in populations of people who are exposed to glowing screens in the hour before bedtime.
A team of neuroscientists at Ohio State University Medical Center, financed in part by the Department of Defense, studied levels of depression in hamsters, extrapolating the results to humans and theorizing that growing exposure to artificial light in the past half-century has worsened depression rates — particularly in women, who they believe are twice as likely to succumb to the depression inducing effects of artificial light.
Study leader Tracy Bedrosian commented on the findings, saying that while the depressive effects seem a foregone conclusion, reversing them may not be difficult:
“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.”
The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.