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What happens when people are exposed to a constant light source?
Daylight is the most important source of light on our planet. For example, light affects animals and plants, but also the mood of people. What are the effects of being exposed to a constant light source? Researchers have now found that constant exposure to light not only disrupts the circadian rhythm, but also reduces the function of the skeletal muscles.
Scientists from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that constant exposure to light disrupts our circadian rhythm and even triggers a decrease in the function of skeletal muscles. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Current Biology".
Light-dark cycle is important for humans and animals
The results of the new study underline the importance of the so-called day-night cycle (light-dark cycle). This is important for human and animal health, explains the author Dr. Johanna Meijer. If this important cycle is disrupted, there will be negative health effects.
Study exposes mice to a constant light source for months
During the new study, mice were exposed to a constant light source for several months. This constant exposure to light disrupts the animals' brain activity, the Dutch experts explain. The normal rhythmic patterns of the so-called central circadian pacemaker of the suprachiasmatic core are reduced by up to 70 percent. In addition, the disturbance of the normal light-and-dark pattern and the circadian rhythm also led to a reduction in the skeletal muscle functions of the experimental animals, the scientists add.
Constant light damaged the bones of the mice
The effects of the change in the light-dark cycle were clearly visible. The bones of the mice became weaker and the animals developed a pro-inflammatory condition, the doctors say. This is usually only observed in the presence of pathogens or other harmful triggers of the disease.
Negative effects regenerate quickly
After the mice returned to a standard light-dark cycle over a two-week period, the brain cells recovered quickly and the animal's health problems regenerated.
Missing light-dark cycle leads to disturbances in health parameters
The study clearly shows that a lack of environmental rhythm leads to serious disturbances in a variety of health parameters, the authors explain. These disorders included, for example, inflammatory responses from the immune system, muscle loss and early signs of osteoporosis. These physiological changes are usually all typical of the frailty that usually only occurs in aging humans and animals, says Dr. Meijer.
The amount of light exposure of people should be better considered
The good news is that these negative health effects are reversible when the normal light-dark cycle is restored, explains Dr. Meijer. With light bulbs and fluorescent lamps in our offices, it is now possible for us to spend the whole day without any darkness. The current results suggest that more attention should be paid to the amount of light exposure of people in the future. Especially the elderly and sick, the authors add.
Certain professions are exposed to a lot of light
The scientists estimate that around 75 percent of the world's population is exposed to a light source during the night. For example, 24-hour lighting is completely normal in many nursing homes or intensive care units. The patients who are stationed there as well as the nurses, doctors and nurses are constantly exposed to a light source.
Humans and animals rely on a light-dark cycle
Earlier it was assumed that light and darkness are only harmless or neutral stimuli for our health, says Dr. Based on the results of the study, it can now be seen that this is by no means the case. Humans and animals seem to be optimized to live with a light-dark cycle. Of course, the disadvantage of this is that it can also have negative effects if there is a lack of such cycles, the scientists add. (as)