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Light Pollution Tied to Insomnia

Researchers find that the greater the intensity of nighttime exposure, the higher the likelihood of drug use for sleeplessness

older woman in bed suffering from insomnia

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Older adults who live with greater nighttime light pollution are more likely to have insomnia, a study has found. The link is based on a comparison of the prevalence of the use of drugs that battle sleeplessness in regions with different amounts of light pollution.

Results of the study, published recently in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, revealed that of more than 50,000 people over age 60 whose health records were used in the study, about 22 percent took hypnotic drugs for insomnia. But for those who lived in the areas with the most amount of nighttime light, the rate and amount of drugs used to treat insomnia were significantly higher.

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Researchers divided the study's subjects into quartiles based on the amount of nighttime light pollution they were normally exposed to.

“Older adults exposed to higher levels of residential outdoor artificial nighttime light were more likely to use hypnotic drugs for longer periods or higher daily dosages,” the researchers found. “These findings suggest that artificial nighttime light pollution contributes to insomnia, as shown by higher hypnotic use among older adults with higher degrees of light exposure.”

While the researchers noted that light pollution is “one of the fastest-growing environmental pollutions,” it remains debatable “whether long-term light pollution exposure seriously affects sleep health.”

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