Mental Health: Lights Out


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than one in five Americans live with a mental health disorder. Now, researchers are looking at how exposure to light could affect a person’s chances of developing a psychiatric condition.

You use it to see the world around you – but now researchers are finding light can affect your mental health in more ways than one.

In the world’s largest study on light exposure and mental health, researchers found people exposed to high amounts of light at night had a 30 percent increased risk of developing depression and a greater chance of psychosis, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD, and self-harm. On the other hand, those who were exposed to higher amounts of light during the day had a 20 percent lower risk of depression and were less likely to develop the other conditions. One possible reason for the link is exposure to light at night can misalign your circadian rhythm – that’s your body’s internal clock.

“Most people end up getting misaligned by staying up until 11 o’clock in front of a bright screen watching tv.” explains John Burns, PhD, Clinical Psychologist at Rush University Medical Center.

To get the right amount of light exposure, try taking a short walk outside in the morning or around lunchtime. Set up your workspace near a window to attract natural light. Put down your devices at night and read a book instead. If you do use your phone, adjust the settings to decrease blue light exposure. And if you can’t get enough sunlight during the fall and winter, consider using a bright light box at home.

Burns says, “Bright light is supposed to help people realign circadian misalignment.”

Helping you get the right amount of light and improve your mental health.

In a 2022 analysis, researchers found that in 33 percent of the studies they looked at, people slept less after being exposed to blue light.

Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.


REPORT #3158

BACKGROUND: Blue light emitted by electronic devices and LED lights, has garnered attention in recent years due to its potential impact on mental health. While exposure to natural sunlight is essential for regulating our circadian rhythm and mood, excessive exposure to artificial sources of blue light, especially in the evening, can disrupt these processes and contribute to various mental health issues. More than one in five adults in the United States struggle with a mental illness. A significant way blue light affects mental health is by interfering with sleep patterns. Blue light exposure, particularly in the evening, suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. When melatonin levels are disrupted, it can lead to difficulty falling asleep, decreased sleep quality, and overall sleep disturbances. Chronic sleep deprivation is strongly linked to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as cognitive impairments and decreased productivity. Excessive blue light exposure can also affect neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which plays a crucial role in regulating mood. Disruptions in serotonin levels are associated with mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. Additionally, blue light exposure may contribute to increased feelings of stress and agitation, further impacting mental well-being.


THE STUDY: The world’s largest-ever study on light exposure and mental health discovered that those who were exposed to high amounts of blue light at night had a 30 percent increased risk of developing depression and a greater chance of experiencing psychosis, bipolar disorder anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and self-harming behaviors. The participants who were exposed to more blue light during daylight hours had a twenty percent lower risk of developing depressive symptoms and other mental health disorders. The conclusion hypothesized that the link the blue light at night disrupting mental health more than the daylight was electronic usage and light at nighttime disrupting the body’s circadian rhythm. “Some studies have found that psychotic symptoms are worse at night, or can cause insomnia, which may increase the likelihood that people would have the lights on during nighttime hours,” said Dr. Samar McCutcheon, a psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center,


NEW REGULATIONS: Recent research has shown that blue light exposure may lead to age-related macular degeneration. One study discovered that blue light triggered the release of toxic molecules in photoreceptor cells. This damage caused experts to believe it may lead to age-related macular degeneration. Almost all blue light passes directly into the back of the retina causing the increased risk.


* For More Information, Contact:

John Burns, PhD

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