My circadian rhythms have been upended and you don’t want to hear about my messed up melatonin levels...
I live on an ‘S’ bend on a hill. When it snows my road is the last to thaw out. It’s treacherous and the house opposite has had three cars end up in its front garden in the time I have lived here.
The most recent accident that corresponded with the last thick snowfall took out the aforementioned house’s front garden wall and an adjacent street lamp. The wall was duly fixed and a stand-alone LED street light was pout in its place.
And that is where my troubles began. I have been a victim of Light Trespass. My circadian rhythms have been upended and you don’t want to hear about my messed up melatonin levels – all because of the brightness of this singular LED light that shines straight into my bedroom. I’ve had to have thick blackout curtains added to my soft furnishings to shield me from the cold white glare, which I have funded much to my chagrin.
According to the International Dark Sky Organisation, apparently all life is governed by a 24-hour circadian rhythm activated by the light-dark cycle. The circadian system controls vital biological functions in our bodies such as alertness, temperature regulation and production of the hormone melatonin.
Poor circadian regulation causes attention deficiency, poor memory, failure to process information, and reduced cognition. Compromised biological functions and the suppression of melatonin suppression can weaken the immune system, and increase the risks of cancer, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Anxiety, mental illness and mood swings have also all been linked.
With growing urban density, the world is artificially brighter than ever. But so much of this night lighting is sheer energy wastage.
According to estimates made by European dark-sky organisations, approximately night lighting waste accounts for €2bn annually. The International Dark-Sky Association says that a third of exterior lighting in the US is wasted due to misdirection costing about $2bn a year.
The environment at large gets a hammering too. Misdirected and overly bright lighting adds to emissions in the atmosphere and plays havoc with wildlife. It is estimated that in the US over 4 million birds die a year flying into illuminated buildings.
Thankfully new generations of intelligent, connected smart lighting is starting to address the wasteful and harmful effects of urban night lighting. Better for humans, wildlife, the environment and bringing back that most sensational vista of all: the beauty and majesty of the night sky.