Commentary: Feeling ‘light’ fatigue — and how to lower energy bills

Joe PIsani
Joe PIsani

It seems that an insomnia epidemic is sweeping across America, with 50 million helpless and hapless men and women tossing and turning throughout the night.

Some lie awake staring at the ceiling, worrying about their jobs, others about their love lives and still others about the stock market, their kids, their health, their finances, and who’s going to die next on “Game of Thrones.”

Yes, it turns out there are many things can keep us awake.

Now, there’s a new culprit, according to research from Great Britain — home of the Beatles and Prince Harry, not to mention Harry Potter and Jack the Ripper. The experts there say light in your bedroom is a major health hazard that could be life-threatening.

‘Too much light’ and obesity

A BBC story ominously reported that, “Researchers warn of health dangers of too much light while we try to sleep.” The study of 113,000 women conducted by Oxford University concluded that women “had larger waistlines if their bedroom was light enough to see across,” which, they suggested, could lead to obesity.

Several questions immediately come to mind. Why didn’t they survey men and measure their waistlines? Was there any evidence they were eating Fritos or Cheetos in bed? Were women who slept in the dark underweight?

I’m not smart enough to study at Oxford and my math skills are limited to calculating 20% tips in New York City, but I have to question the methodology of this research.

Nevertheless, I’m relieved U.S. taxpayers didn’t foot the bill, although it’s only a matter of time before Yale does a similar study, subsidized by Sleepy’s and Jenny Craig.

Impact on rodents

Previous scientific research has shown that rodents get sick when they’re exposed to light at night. So, to keep the mice in our house from developing nausea or diarrhea, I unplug the digital clocks and turn off the night lights.

And I don’t let my family members open the refrigerator after the sun goes down. The Humane Society would be pleased.

Solving the energy crisis

The good news is that these British researchers have stumbled upon the ultimate diet program, which will have health benefits worldwide. It’s simple. We can solve the insomnia epidemic and the obesity epidemic by shutting down the power grid. Did I mention we could also solve the energy crisis?

I’m sure the National Enquirer is already working on a story about this revolutionary weight-reduction plan with a headline that says, “Turn off the lights — lose weight and cut your electric bill!”

There are other implications, too, such as the correlation between light in the bedroom and the performance of the stock market, not to mention the incidence of erratic behavior by Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan.

Motion-detector lights, TV on all night

I’m reluctant to confess that I, myself, am a victim of light pollution. Everyone has motion-detector floodlights where we live, so when roving packs of deer go from garden to garden in search of a midnight snack, the neighborhood lights up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

Furthermore, our home suffers from chronic bedroom light pollution because my wife can’t sleep unless there’s a TV program on, which is an annoying habit she shared with my mother and father, who made the rest of us lie awake listening to reruns of “I Love Lucy” and “Gunsmoke” in the wee hours of the morning while they were snoring.

This was back in the day before Americans started popping sleeping pills like M&Ms.

‘Downton Abbey’ marathon

Since we don’t own a TV set, my wife has a small DVD player on her nightstand, which provides a “Downton Abbey” marathon from dusk to dawn. But listening to people with British accents at 3 a.m. talking about fox hunting and Earl Grey tea, isn’t my idea of a sleep aid.

I have no idea how all this bedroom light is affecting her health because she won’t let me measure her waistline. And when I tried to take away the DVD player, she gave me a kung fu kick to the solar plexus.

I’ve pleaded with her and accused her of contributing to a public health epidemic, but she just won’t listen.

Where’s former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg when we need him? He banned Big Gulps and trans fats. Now, we need him to save our womenfolk by banning bedroom light.

Joe Pisani, who grew up in Shelton’s Pine Rock neighborhood, may be reached at