Light or Dark, Understanding the better half of glow
‘Turn off the lights and turn on the stars.’ Very often we hear people chattering about the immense beauty of the night sky; the stars, the moon, and the never-ending coruscate in between. But these talks stay confined to the realms of hills and hues, it’s not a talk among the folks of plain land. Why? Because of the enormous source of light pollution emitting from the jam-packed lanes of crowded cities.
In June 2016, it was estimated that one-third of the world’s population could no longer see the Milky Way. The luminescent glow of the artificial lights has blocked our path to witness nature and had created its own world of false gleaming havens. People busy enjoying the benefits of light seem to forsake the beauty of the dark. Yes, the dark, the better half of the light is equally important for us and our body.
On the other front, talking about the growing pollution and the save earth dialogues have hidden the detrimental effects of light pollution. Pollution as dangerous as any other is already causing hazardous health effects on humans. Missing the Dark has seized our opportunity to have a better immune system.
Light Pollution and The Importance of the Dark
The three main types of light pollution are glare, light trespass, and skyglow. The sensation produced by luminance within the visual field from an un-shielding light is very dangerous for human eyes as it causes loss of contrast that often results in temporary blindness. Light trespass means exactly what the word describes, an unwanted light source sneaking into our eyes, for instance, unwanted light when one is trying to sleep. Whereas the skyglow is the combination of all the reflected light directed upwards and the rest of the light escaping up the sky. These three together block the moonlight and thus cause terrible night pollution.
Sadly, not many people are aware of this source of pollution and turn a blind eye to the later consequences. When does nuisance light become a health hazard? The problem with light is that it is too much. Society’s ability to light up the night has altered the timing of necessary biological activities such as eat, sleep, or reproduce. Sea turtles provide an excellent example of this disruption. Female sea turtle species lay their eggs on the beach shore and when these beaches are lit brightly they become discouraged from nesting, they can also confuse their path and sometimes end up getting on the roadways. The sea turtle hatchlings navigate towards the sea according to the elevated darkness but when this darkness is hindered, most of them navigate towards the artificial light instead of their initial destination.
Moreover, Melatonin is a hormone that is released by the pineal gland during the nighttime and has been associated with control of the sleep and wake cycle. A sleep hormone solely produced at night promotes healthy sleep and helps to orient our circadian rhythm. With the habit of living in the light and forgetting nature’s timings, our body fails to recognize the night time and thus interrupts the melatonin secretion which causes insomnia, headache, anxiety, and weakness. Perhaps, it turns out that it’s the light that stands in between the growing problem of anxiety and insomnia. Most of us do not experience the true dark night which results in increased risks for obesity, diabetes, breast cancer, and more. One report also suggests that melatonin can slow tumor growth by up to 70% in mice infected with human breast cancer cells.
There is an abundant source of blue light, which is the most harmful among all the artificial lights. Unfortunately, it’s everywhere from our computer screens to mobile phones- blue light comes in handy. The American Medical Association in a report recommended shielding all light units and using lighting with 3000K color temperature or below. Moreover, light pollution also disrupts the natural cycle of life by threatening the positive aspects of Darkness.
Dark and The Power Unleashed
Dark is often associated with something being scary and nyctophobia seems to be the right argument in the context. However, darkness is extremely important for human health. As we rush towards the 24*7 world, we leave behind the merits of the dark. An experiment in 2013 showed that a period of complete darkness could help restore bad eyesight whereas cancer treatment too benefits from the same. Since the human race evolved without the existence of artificial lights, darkness has so much more to offer. Not just Melatonin, darkness also affects the leptin which goes up at night as a result we are not hungry at night. This fasting is very important for our body clock and is recommended to happen every night, that’s why we call the first meal in the morning “breakfast.” Thus, darkness has much more to offer than we imagine.
To shorten the effects of light pollution, people should start acting upfront. One should get bright light in the morning preferably from the Sun itself, and use dim, longer wavelength light like yellow or red in the evening. Sleeping should be performed in complete darkness. Any type of pollution is manmade thus the solution too is manmade. When people start acknowledging these fields and start preparing to counter- wonders could happen in a blink of an eye!