Too much TV or time spent behind a computer screen during the day has been linked to inactivity and obesity. Now, researchers have discovered that screens could also spell trouble for us at night.
A new study from researchers at the Ohio State University Medical Center, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found hamsters exposed to low levels of light, comparable to a TV screen in a dark room, displayed symptoms consistent with depression.
In the study, the hamsters experienced low levels of light at night for four weeks. When compared to the control group (which experienced darkness at night), researchers found the low-levels-of-light hamsters were less active and less eager to drink sugar water, which is comparable to symptoms of depression in humans.
"The results we found in hamsters are consistent with what we know about depression in humans," Tracy Bedrosian, lead author of the study, told Reuters.
The researchers also found changes in the part of the hippocampus that were also similar to the changes found in people with depression. Hamsters that had been exposed to low levels of light also produced higher levels of a protein that is used when the body is injured; it causes inflammation as the body tries to heal itself.
"Researchers have found a strong association in people between chronic inflammation and depression," study author Randy Nelson, told Reuters. "That's why it is very significant that we found this relationship between dim light at night and increased expression of [the protein]."
The study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that our sleeping conditions at night can greatly affect our health. Numerous studies have linked night shift work with an increased risk of a range of diseases, including some forms of cancer.
Do you keep TVs or computers on at night? Will you turn them off now?