Impact of outside lighting on teen sleep


Sleep is a teenager’s best friend, but so many things can reduce the helpfulness. A new investigation looks into the impact of outside artificial light on adolescent sleep health.

It’s no secret that teenagers need a fair amount of sleep to be healthy. However, a number of teenagers are living in homes with a great deal of outdoor artificial light during the night. A report in JAMA Psychiatry looks at the effect of this light exposure on mental health.1

Investigators used the National Comorbidity Survey–Adolescent Supplement to find adolescents aged 13 to 18 years. The teenagers were asked about the habitual sleep patterns, including weeknight bedtime, weeknight sleep duration, and how weekend sleep patterns changed. The teenagers were also asked about past-year anxiety, behavior, mood, and substance use, all which were measured using in-person structured diagnostic interviews. Artificial light at night was measured using satellites and the value was changed into units of radiance.

A total of 10,123 teenagers were included in the survey. Among these adolescents, artificial light at night was found to have a positive association with indicators of social disadvantage such as lower family income and racial/ethnic minority status. Following adjustment for many sociodemographic characteristics and area-level population density as well as socioeconomic status, it was found that higher levels of artificial lights at night was linked to a later weeknight bedtime. Additionally, teens in the lowest quartile of artificial light had the longest weeknight sleep duration. When compared to teenagers in the lowest quartile of artificial light, those in the highest quartile reported going to bed on average 29 minutes later and getting 11 fewer minutes of sleep. There was also a positive association between artificial light at night with prevalence of past-year mood and anxiety disorder. Additional analyses found associations with major depressive disorder or dysthymia, specific phobias, and bipolar disorder.

The researchers concluded that artificial light near the home was linked with worse sleep patterns as well as mood and anxiety disorder in teenagers. They also state that further studies into the subject should examine whether interventions that limit exposure to artificial light at night could have a positive effect on sleep hygiene and mental health.


1. Paksarian D, Rudolph K, Stapp E, et al. Association of outdoor artificial light at night with mental disorders and sleep patterns among US adolescents. JAMA Psychiatry. July 8, 2020. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.1935

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