The Hidden Risks of Nightlights for Children


| 10/20/2014 8:37:00 AM


Tags: healthy families, sleep, cancer, Washington, Chelsea Clark,

While many kids (and adults, too) might prefer to sleep with a light on, research shows that exposure to artificial light after the sun goes down can disrupt healthy body function and is associated with an increased risk for cancer. So turn off your computers, TVs, and nightlights for kids, and learn to embrace the nighttime darkness.

Light, Circadian Rhythms and MelatoninHidden Risks Of Nightlights

Our bodies are governed by a 24-hour biological clock, the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm regulates when we sleep and wake, and governs many other important biological processes. Melatonin, one of the main hormones responsible for maintaining this cycle, is normally produced in the dark. Light at night suppresses the pineal gland’s secretion of melatonin and disrupts the circadian rhythm.[1] Low melatonin can contribute to a wide variety of health conditions, from sleeplessness to migraines.

Increased Cancer Risk

The circadian rhythm also regulates important processes that modulate tumor activity.[1] Several studies have found evidence that melatonin directly inhibits tumor growth and development.[1,2] Even short-term exposure to bright, white light at night can interfere with this effect.[2]

Women working the night shift show increased risk for breast cancer, and this effect is attributed to their exposure to light at night.[2] These observations and a multitude of laboratory studies have led researchers to conclude that “shift-work that involves circadian disruption is probably carcinogenic to humans.”[3] Interestingly, blind women show a lower risk for breast cancer as well,[4] strengthening the link between light exposure and cancer risk.

Importance for Children

Children may be especially sensitive to artificial light at night. One study found that in children, melatonin activity was suppressed by light at night almost twice as much as it was in adults.[5] Childhood experiences, and even in utero conditions, can influence the risk of cancer later in life. Adolescence and other developmental periods are particularly important and circadian disruptions during these periods can be very detrimental.[4]

Researchers note that “ill-timed electric light exposure to a child may disrupt circadian rhythmicity and contribute to increased risk of cancer later in life.”[6] They suggest that parents avoid night-lights for children from birth onward, and that parents should also use dim red light sources when feeding or caring for a child during the night.

Doug
10/21/2014 7:28:37 AM

And another problem with night lights - studies show that using one with small children produces a higher incendence of nearsightedness.





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