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J Pineal Res. 2007 Oct;43(3):215-24.

The dark side of light at night: physiological, epidemiological, and ecological consequences.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.


Organisms must adapt to the temporal characteristics of their surroundings to successfully survive and reproduce. Variation in the daily light cycle, for example, acts through endocrine and neurobiological mechanisms to control several downstream physiological and behavioral processes. Interruptions in normal circadian light cycles and the resulting disruption of normal melatonin rhythms cause widespread disruptive effects involving multiple body systems, the results of which can have serious medical consequences for individuals, as well as large-scale ecological implications for populations. With the invention of electrical lights about a century ago, the temporal organization of the environment has been drastically altered for many species, including humans. In addition to the incidental exposure to light at night through light pollution, humans also engage in increasing amounts of shift-work, resulting in repeated and often long-term circadian disruption. The increasing prevalence of exposure to light at night has significant social, ecological, behavioral, and health consequences that are only now becoming apparent. This review addresses the complicated web of potential behavioral and physiological consequences resulting from exposure to light at night, as well as the large-scale medical and ecological implications that may result.

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