Artificial lighting to trigger insomnia, says research

South Korean researchers have come up with the latest research which says that an increasing amount of light pollution triggers insomnia in older adults. The researchers have warned that nights are getting too bright for people to fall and stay asleep. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Light pollution occurs when the external sources produce more light during the night than is necessary. Artificial outdoor lighting is generally responsible for light pollution. It is blamed to affect the sleeping patterns in people which causes them to take pharmaceutical drugs in futile attempts to improve their sleep.

Insomnia is a sleeping disorder characterized by difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep. It also involves the tendency of waking up earlier than required. Consequently, an individual runs short of sleep and experiences numerous health problems.

The research team studied the number of prescriptions for two hypnotic drugs in a large population. Furthermore, they evaluated the amount of each pharmaceutical taken every day. Along with the duration of treatment, they finally measured the levels of artificial light from external sources. These sources included street lamps and advertisement billboards.

The findings of the study reported that higher levels of artificial light during nighttime corresponded with more prescriptions and daily use of hypnotic drugs. Note that the older people were found more prone to taking either larger quantities of drugs or using them for extended periods. This respective study observed a notable link between the intensity of outdoor, artificial, nighttime lighting and the prevalence of insomnia. The prevalence of insomnia was indicated by hypnotic agent prescriptions for older adults in South Korea.

The results strongly support the data that outdoor, artificial, nighttime light could be a source of sleep deprivation or insomnia.

Artificial lights disturb the natural rhythm of the body

The research shows that artificial lights disrupt the natural corporal rhythm. Regardless of the light source placed outdoor or indoor, exposure to too much artificial light at night can lead to metabolic and chronic diseases like,

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Researchers tapped the records of the National Health Insurance Service-National Sample Cohort (NHIS-NSC) database. They examined the vast information collected over 11 years for potential participants with no reported sleep disorder. The final study cohort comprised of 52,027 people with all the subjects aging around 60 years at least. Women made up 60 percent of the group.

The researchers gathered satellite-based data on light pollution in the administrative districts of South Korea. The amount of light exposure in a district matched the residential areas of participants in the cohort. In the end, they retrieved health insurance records for the usage of zolpidem and triazolam and noted that roughly 22 percent of the cohort took hypnotic drugs on prescriptions.


The research suggests that bright outdoor lighting may be a novel risk factor for prescribing hypnotic drugs. Additional studies are required to define the effects of light pollution on sleep and other aspects of human health.

According to the researchers, governments need to set concrete policies in order to reduce the adverse health effects of artificial outdoor light during nighttime. It is commonly observed that public health officials focus too much on air pollutants and other forms of environmental pollution. However, the amount and health hazards of light pollution are increasing day by day. Therefore, it demands quick and serious address as well.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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