Lights Out!

As one would expect, arriving at college comes with its fair share of life changes. Living with a roommate, adjusting to life without parents around, and making an entirely new group of friends are among the list of many lifestyle adaptations we face. For me, one of those major changes was sleeping with the lights entirely off. I’m usually good about turning the TV off, but I don’t usually sleep in complete darkness. Ok, a little embarrassing, I admit, but I just simply prefer to sleep with the lights dimmed. My light switch at home allowed me to dim my lights, so I would every night. I had a friend tell me once that you can never get a good, proper night’s sleep without a completely dark room, but I refused to believe her. My way was better, obviously. Yet, now that I am forced to sleep with the lights off out of courtesy, I have encountered some slight changes to my sleep schedule. Perhaps I am more tired as a college student, but I do seem to be falling asleep faster and my FitBit tells me I am lest restless in my sleep. I started to wonder- could she be right?

I read this article that delves into the reason why really any source of light, even the little glow of my alarm clock or the sun that comes in through our dorm window, could be affecting my mental health. Essentially it has to do with a chemical in our brains, Melatonin. You may have heard of melatonin from our reading in class the other day, but melatonin basically relates to our mental health and controls our mood. Lack of melatonin, which can be caused from light in our rooms while we sleep, could in turn cause depression. We saw this in the mice experiment that Andrew showed us in class – the mice who slept with a glow on in the background were more susceptible to becoming depressed. In addition to messing with our melatonin levels, allowing light in the room also screws up our internal or “biological” clocks. . Our body, through the help of Suprachiasmatic Nucleus, can sense light even when we are fast asleep. This means our brain may be trying to tell our body to wake up when it senses this light, even though we should be sleeping .


The article suggests taking, in my opinion, rather drastic measures to ensure complete and utter darkness in our bedrooms. Buying light cancelling curtains and putting a towel at the bottom of our door is not something that I will be doing any time soon. But I will definitely be sleeping with the lights off from now on. Even though I have not experienced any drastic change in my mood (yet), I have noticed that I’m sleeping a little better. That’s enough for me to be convinced.


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2 thoughts on “Lights Out!

  1. Nicole B Sherman

    I am really happy that I came across this post because sleeping with the lights out has always been something I’ve wanted to learn more about when it comes to the science aspect of it. You see, I myself have always been the type of person who cannot, and I mean absolutely cannot sleep if there is any kind of light on in the room. For some unknown reason, I seem to become fixated on anything that would have light on it, and it seems as if my brain won’t shut off, therefore not enabling me to fall asleep. That is why I was really intrigued by this post; I never thought that light at night could cause such severe health issues, even after discussing the TIME article about mice that we did in class, I was still skeptical. After reading your very informative piece though, I can definitely see why light is a bad thing. I just honestly never thought it could lead to something like depression, that is why I had trouble believing the passage about how keeping the TV on at night could affect our mental health. This article though, has also prompted me to question why exactly light keeps us up at night, because, as I mentioned, it is something I experience. I found a really great article explaining this, and it also ties in with what you’re saying about melatonin, check it outhere if you’re interested! On a side note, just as how you were saying that you won’t be purchasing light-cancelling curtains, or putting a towel under your door at night, I have actually been guilty of doing those things if you can believe that. I know it sounds crazy, and I don’t do those things anymore, but honestly, not being able to fall asleep because of small lights, or lights in general, has always been a serious problem for me.

  2. Eddy Lee

    This was very interesting to read because I also have the habit of sleeping with some lights on in the background of my room. Usually it would be the TV or the lights if I forget and fall asleep right away. Reading your article and finding out that having background lights could possible cause depression was pretty shocking, After reading this article, I feel that I would try to minimize light as much as possible when I sleep now. Check out this article that I found for more additional information about this subject.

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