Have you noticed how shockingly bright streetlights are these days? Although they’re great for night time visibility, the newer LED streetlights tamper with the body’s internal clock, skewing metabolic function and raising disease risk. The effect of this blue-rich white light during the night is so significant to effecting human health, that the American Medical Association (AMA) issued a policy statement about it. They warn that LED street lights are five times more disruptive to the human sleep cycle than traditional street lighting, and recent large surveys also link brighter residential lighting with symptoms such as; reduced sleep, poor functioning, obesity, increased risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. These bright blue-white lights also strain the eyes and can cause problems walking or driving safely at night, meaning enough blue light can even damage the retina.
How night time lighting can be safer for your health
LED lights were introduced because they consume less energy. The AMA suggests the following ways to make the lighting friendlier to human biology (and that of area wildlife):
- Lowering the color temperature of the lights away from the blue end of the spectrum (which signals the brain it is daytime) and towards the orange end of the spectrum. Current lights have a color temperature of 4000K to 5000K. Compare this with the use of fire and candles human have used for most of history, at 1800K. The AMA recommends lights be no bluer than 3000K.
- Better shielding on the light fixtures to reduce eye-straining glare.
- Using adaptive controls to dim or extinguish the lights.
Why residents are complaining about the bright lights
You don’t have to understand the science to feel the effects of these lights. Residents in areas where they are installed around the country are complaining, saying the lights feel like a car lot or strip mall parking lot. The LED street lamps also light up the insides of homes, especially in hilly areas such as Seattle, Washington. In places such as Davis, California, residents found them so objectionable that the city agreed to replace all existing LED streetlights with more biologically friendly lighting. In various areas where LED streetlights are installed, residents seem to be complaining about the same thing; the effects of the not-so-pleasant bright lights.
So, do you need sunglasses at night?
Of course, it’s dangerous to wear dark glasses at night. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have recourse if LED streetlights are a part of your night life. You can switch the light coming into your eyes to a more biologically friendly hue by wearing orange or rose tinted glasses. Examples include affordable Uvex safety glasses from Amazon, orange glasses from Low Blue Lights (these glasses are more expensive because they are scratch resistant) or rose tinted migraine glasses. Also, cities are taking note of complaints, so if orange or rose tinted glasses aren’t your thing, make sure you voice is heard.
Avoid night time blue lights indoors too
LED streetlights aren’t the only culprits when it comes to confusing your sleep-wake cycle. LED televisions, smart phones, tablets, computers and LED bulbs also bombard you with too much blue light at night, which hinders the output of sleep hormones.
Purchasing orange bulbs for lamps, orange filters to put over your screens, or wearing orange glasses a couple of hours before bed are all alternative ways to encourage the production of sleep hormones and maintain the delicate but important sleep-wake cycle. In general, avoiding LED lighting of any sorts before bed would be most beneficial.