Are Street Lights Universally Helpful?

After Thomas Edison demonstrated the first practical incandescent light bulbs for everyday use, electric lights started to pop up along streets all over America. The first city to introduce streetlights was Wabash, Indiana, in 1880. The town used four “brush lights” mounted on top of the courthouse, and now celebrates its history as the "First Electrically Lighted City in the World." However, it's not all good news for urban dwellers. In 2016, researchers at Stanford’s Sleep Epidemiology Research Center determined that people living in today’s highly illuminated cities tend to have more sleep disturbances, leading to less rest, increased fatigue and an overall sense of confusion when they wake up.

The elusive pursuit of sleep:

  • The study involved interviews with 16,000 people over eight years. They were asked about their nighttime habits and the quality of their sleep. City dwellers were 6 percent more likely to sleep less than six hours a night.
  • Data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program shows that people living in urban areas with a population of at least 500,000 are exposed to nighttime lights that are three to six times more intense than people living in rural areas.
  • “Our world has become a 24/7 society,” the Stanford report said. “The concern is that we have reduced our exposure to darkness and it could be affecting our sleep.”
More Info: CityLab

Discussion Comments


I am not sure that this study is to be believed. There is more than just illumination that causes the lifestyle differences between rural and urban areas.

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