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July 29, 2012

Can the Disney Channel Cause Depression?

Is Your favorite Show Harmful?

Do you watch re-runs of your favorite show, or do your kids enjoy the Disney Channel. Seems pretty harmless, right? Well, maybe not so much.

The TV Blues

Does watching TV cause depression? Well, the poor quality of television programming may, in fact, be quite depressing, but a team of neuropsychologists at Ohio State University Medical Center studied the effects of falling asleep while watching television. More specifically, the effect of sleeping in dim light as opposed to total darkness. The results weren’t good.

When It’s Best To Stay ‘In The Dark’

The researchers, studying mice, found that the little critters were far less happy when exposed to dim light while sleeping. How does one measure mice sadness (or happiness for that matter)? Well, apparently unhappy mice are less active and show little interest in activities they had found to be fun (bothering humans and enticing cats?). Anyway, the little mice got back their mojo when the dim light was removed, suggesting that this condition is reversible.

Anything Else?

Yes, there’s more. Check-out my prior post about sleep disorders. Over a year ago I wrote about how ‘garbage-light’ (from light-bulbs as opposed to the sun) in our civilized world has messed-up our sleep and our mood. Rather than sleep being a slow process, as the sun slowly sets in the sky; sleep is now a sudden event. We turn off the TV (computer or whatever), and expect to immediately ‘turn off’ ourselves and go to sleep. For many, that ain’t so easy.

What’s More…

Even worse, we often don’t turn off the TV or computer. We’ve grown accustomed to sleeping with the TV on, as have our kids. We’ve known for years that even super-dim light (eg. light from a digital alarm clock) can interfere with REM sleep; now we have reason to believe it can also impact our mood (no real surprise).

What To Do?

Fortunately, this is an easy fix. Don’t have to go to be a rocket scientist to know to off the TV, and any light source, when going to bed. Even better, turn down lights as the evening and bedtime approach, making a calm and soothing transition to lullaby-land. This will improve you and your kid’s sleep and how you feel the next day. If you’re prone to depression, or your kids are prone to irritability, this is especially important. Try it now; it only took two weeks, sleeping in darkness, for the little mice to smile again. Don’t you want to see more smiles in your home?

Sleep tight.

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