Bad habits — no matter how insignificant they seem — always come back to bite us in the ass. Case in point: screen exposure. While it’s well-known that late-night viewing sessions screw with sleep (among other things), people still bathe themselves in the unfiltered blue light that screens emit all in the name of watching just one more episode of Archer or Rick and Morty. Researchers recently discovered that animals can pass on the effects of nighttime light exposure, which includes weakened immune and endocrine systems, to their offspring. That means your late night Netflix viewings just became much less chill.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, looked at 23 male and 23 female hamsters. Half of them were exposed to either standard light day/dark night cycle; the other was exposed to a less traditional cycle of late night dim light exposure — the equivalent of a rodent iPad, if you will — for nine weeks. After they mated, the hamsters returned to standard light conditions.
Researchers found that when hamsters were exposed to light at night, both male and female hamsters passed on negative health effects to their pups. These included changes in genetic activity in the spleen, as well as the aforementioned alterations to endocrine and immune systems. Researchers suspect epigenetics, or heritable changes in genetic expression, are to blame.
Yes, this is a study of hamsters. But don’t write off rodent research completely. Past human and animal studies have linked health problems such as cancer and diabetes to nighttime blue-light exposure in both species. This was concerned by lead study author Yasmin Cisse, who told Fatherly via email that “studies in rodents provide a cautionary tale of the health effects of light at night both directly and now transgenerationally.”
To avoid passing down any effects (and to just be healthier in general) Cisse recommends sticking to a “Paleo lighting regimen” that aligns with your natural sleep-wake system of rise with the sun and sleep when it’s dark. “Stick to bright short wavelength light (blue) during the morning, fading to long wavelength lights (red/orange) during the evening to very low level (a full moon is about 1 lux) lights at night,” she says. The brightness of your screen can be managed using a variety of apps and resources. Using them isn’t exactly foreplay, but it will up the chill factor of your Netflix sessions.