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Light | Coming Alongside
  • 99% of Americans are exposed to brighter than normal conditions at night

  • Things that go Bright in the Night
    should be no brighter than a Full Moon

  • When the human eye "sees"
    bright light at night, the brain
    disrupts sleep



Things that go Bright in the Night:

With the growth of cities and expanding urban development has come a corresponding uptick in artificial lighting. Light at night illuminates stadiums, shopping centers, highways, and homes. Over 99% of Americans are exposed to brighter than normal light conditions at night and over 66% see skies at night that are brighter than a full moon. While artificial lighting may increase our sense of safety and expand what we do at night, it also fools our brains into thinking that sunset has not yet come. This hoodwinking of the brain does more than disrupt our sleep patterns; it also disrupts our circadian pacemaker which is responsible for the timing of every system in our body, leading to breakdowns and imbalances in metabolism, immune function, and endocrine function. Once disrupted and imbalanced, these systems can and do contribute to a wide range of chronic disease and system malfunction in the body.

In the United States:
While increased urbanization and correspondingly larger cities have steadily made things brighter in the night, the health risk due to light pollution has taken a leap forward in the past decade as a result of some key technologies. Widely applauded for their decreased energy usage, LED based street lamps contain much of the blue light that is responsible for disrupting our circadian rhythms. Likewise, the nifty suite of electronic devices we now sport at night, including mobile phones, laptop computers, and tablets, also contain much of the blue light that sabotages our sleep and body timing. Studies show that less than 20 minutes of exposure to the wrong color of light after sunset can damage quality of sleep and stimulate hormone, metabolic, and immune malfunction.

The good news is that all light is not created equal and we can pick and choose light sources at night that are better for our circadian timing, sleep, and bodies. When we can't switch to a different light or eliminate light altogether, we can also choose options for filtering out "bad" light while leaving enough "OK" light to allow us to continue to do the many things that we do… at night.

In collaboration with the University of Washington, Coming Alongside has tested a wide variety of light sources to understand their impact on the human eye during evening and nighttime exposure to these lights. To account for the specialized receptors in the eye that are responsible for giving the brain what it needs to regulate timing, the testing results are converted to full moon equivalents. These full moon equivalents are a way of measuring how overloaded the human eye and body is by different sources of artificial light at night. For example, a device that delivers two FMEs (Full Moon Equivalents) to the eye stimulates the part of the eye responsible for regulating circadian rhythms twice as much as a full moon. The more full moon equivalents a bulb, a lamp, or a device delivers… the more health risk it delivers to the body.


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Know more:
An iPhone 5 can stimulate the 'sleep' receptor in the eye over 14 times more than a full moon.
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Know more:
A laptop computer can stimulate the 'sleep' receptor in the eye over 10 times more than a full moon.
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Know more:
An incandescent bulb in the typical home can stimulate the 'sleep' receptor in the eye 125 times more than a full moon.

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