Lighting hazards

 
Published: Friday 31 December 1993

IF YOU are reluctant to leave bed on a dark, winter morning, stay right in there. People who wake up early in winters might be cutting short their required sleep, inviting unforeseen health problems (New Scientist, Vol 140, No 1899).

Researchers say the natural sleeping patterns of humans are strikingly similar to those of chipmunks and other animals, which sleep for long periods during winter. But, say Thomas Wehr and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, USA, getting up early in winter becomes a habit because of artificial lighting. This may be forcing humans into unnatural sleeping habits, disrupting seasonal variations in sleep patterns and causing widespread sleep deprivation. The researchers found that people who stayed in bed for longer hours in winter were more rested and energetic.

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