Lights, Stress and Mental Illness

Different kinds of lights may cause stress for different reasons. There is over-illumination, under-illumination, light bulbs that flicker, harsh lights, soft lights, flashing lights, strobe lights, dim lights, hot lights, spot lights, blue headlights, and many others. People who are diagnosed with a mental illness/psychiatric disorder are often in programs or in group homes where they have little or no control over the types of light bulbs that are used. Cheap bulbs that will save the program or group home money are too often a regrettable norm.

It has been proven that with the extended day light hours that we have because of the access to light (added inside light) that stress hormones that were previously only active in the daytime, are now active at night as well. Hormones that depend upon a lack of light are the hormones that help our bodies rest and recover from stress. When our bodies don’t get enough repair time tissues can’t heal and our immunity against diseases goes down. Our bodies end up working overtime.

Neurotransmitters that are released daily depend upon the light and we may not feel as well on darker days. Neurotransmitters that would normally be released at night don’t know to appear. This situation escalates and we spiral down into poor health. Moe Armstrong (Michigan Vet-to-Vet state trainer) often talks (when he presents at conferences) about how crucial sleep is to his mental health and well-being.

Also because Michigan is so far north, people may struggle with not enough natural light to help them feel well. Both serotonin and dopamine are released depending upon the amount of light our cells feel we are getting. When enough of these hormones are not released medication may be subscribed or we may feel tired or continually exhausted. There are lights that can help like those used to alleviate or help seasonal-affective disorder (SAD).

In houses and building in America there are three types of lighting that are primarily used; florescent, incandescent and light emitting diode (LED). Some houses have switched over to full-spectrum lighting which improves mood and helps release daytime hormones. Full-spectrum lighting can cause stress when one is trying to go to sleep if one uses it (full-spectrum lighting is very bright) too late in the day. It seems to fool the body into thinking it is daytime.

Florescent lights cause a distorted light that can cause stress hormones to appear in larger than normal quantities. Florescent lights are illegal in German hospitals and medical facilities. In a German study, it was found two levels of stress hormones appeared when under florescent lighting that didn’t occur in people who were in natural sunlight for the same amount of time. This can cause an overstimulation of hormones. Many people in the United States work or go to school and thus spend hours and hours of their time that would have naturally in the past been spent outside in the sunshine under artificial lights that stimulate stress and anxiety. In Germany these types of lights are banned for people in many programs.

Incandescent bulbs don’t contain a natural range of light. People in these lights always have a strange shade of skin color when one looks at them in comparison to how they look in natural light. Ladies often desire special lights on make-up mirrors because of this. Neither of these types of lights are helpful in maintaining our mental health and may even be harmful to our mental health.

Whether lights or certain types of lights bother your level of wellness or not is something you can check out for yourself. Use a journal and check how you feel after sitting in a particular type of artificial light for a period of time.

Light emitting diodes (LEDs)are fairly new and haven’t been studied as extensively although white LED lights have been reported to inhibit people’s ability to trigger the relaxation response.
Using a combination of lights, sitting by a window, going outside each day and watching what type of lighting one is using just prior to bedtime, may help one’s stress hormone level and make one better able to sleep.

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