Outdoor artificial nighttime light is increasingly recognized as a form of environmental pollution. Excessive nighttime light exposure, whether from indoor or outdoor sources, has been associated with a number of deleterious effects on human health. We performed a population-based cohort study in South Korea to assess the possible association between outdoor nocturnal lighting and insomnia in older adults, as measured by prescriptions for hypnotic drugs.
This study used data from the 2002–2013 National Health Insurance Service-National Sample Cohort (NHIS-NSC), and a total of 52,027 adults who were age 60 years or older were included in the study. Light data were based on satellite mapping of artificial light. The usage data of two hypnotic drugs, zolpidem (N05CF02) and triazolam (N05CD05), were extracted from the NHIS-NSC records.
Of the 52,027 patients in this cohort, 11,738 (22%) had prescriptions for hypnotic drugs. Increasing outdoor artificial nighttime light exposure (stratified by quartile) was associated with an increased prevalence of hypnotic prescriptions and daily dose intake. Compared with individuals in the lowest quartile 1, the regression coefficients for prescription days and daily defined doses of all hypnotic drugs and certain hypotonic drugs were significantly higher among those living in areas with higher outdoor artificial nighttime light (quartiles 2 through 4).
Outdoor artificial nighttime light exposure was significantly associated with prescription of hypnotic drugs in older adults. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that outdoor artificial nighttime light may cause sleep disturbances.