New York Daily Photo Analytics

Friday, July 30, 2010

We Read at Night


I have been to some of those places so dark at night that you can not see your own hand. I don't like those places. I will confess that after living in New York City most of my life, I am somewhat afraid of the dark because I don't really know what it is anymore. A case of Fear of the Unknown.

I have read about the health benefits of sleeping in total darkness. I am sure it is healthier, but I find greater comfort with light. I can sleep in well lit rooms, a bedroom at night without shades drawn, at the beach, or on park benches during the day. It's much easier to see anyone sneaking up on you, and vampires hate the light.

Although there are conveniences of living in a place where it is well lit at night, this plethora of illumination is light pollution, and it is a well documented problem worldwide, particularly in urban areas like New York City. The Dark-Sky Association (IDA) defines light pollution as any adverse effect of artificial light, including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste.

Links have been found between light pollution and cancer, increase in blood pressure, alertness and mood. Sleep and circadian disruption, along with melatonin suppression, may have long term health risks. In a larger sphere, ecosystems are disrupted. On March 26th, 2009, I wrote of the effect on our fine feathered friends in Birds Sing at Night.

We grow accustomed to the everlasting light of the city. In most areas, it is easy to read at any hour of the night in the parks or on the streets. Bill Hayes, a writer for the New York Times, in a piece called "Insomniac City," describes a phenomenon he discovered - people who took to the parks on summer nights to read all manner of printed materials - books, newspapers, novels and poetry.
On summer trips when I have vacationed in rural areas, I found a flashlight a necessary tool to carry at night. In the city, I use my flashlight during the day to find that lost item that has rolled under a desk and rarely to illuminate my way at night.

In a city that never sleeps and where everything is illuminated, birds sing and we read at night...

7 comments:

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

It's not the vampires that trouble me in total darkness, Brian. It's claustrophobia. If I can't see anything, I have no sense of there being open space around me. Once when we camped in a forest, I had to arrange myself in the tent so that I could see a tiny sliver of the night sky through an open tent flap before I could settle down and go to sleep. A great post and wonderfully evocative photos.

Ron said...

Hi! Just found your blog and lovin' it!

I live Philadelphia, but have also lived in NYC for 5 years. For me, there is no other city in the world like it. And your awesome photos prove it. NYC...ROCKS!

Thanks for sharing!

I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

The same thing can actually be said about noise pollution. Here in Estonia where I live, we have huge forests covering around 50% of the whole country. The forests are quiet places (compared to cities) and they actually brought a class of Japanese students here for vacation. Well, the Japanese were so accustomed to white noise that during the first few days they experience stress, fear and confusion because it was so quiet in the forest. In a few days, they got used to it, but it was quite a shock to the observers. In any case, this brings us back to the melatonin production decrease you were citing. Melatonin is the chemical responsible for sleep regulation. According to recent statistics, around 10% of the entire US population takes melatonin supplements in one form or another (melatonin is OTC in the US, unlike the EU). Talk about sleep disorders. I know all this because I've been having sleep disorders myself.

Love your blog.
Greeting from a NY-lover from Estonia.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Oh, and I read the Bill Hayes piece. Thanks for that too.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

So, I'm assuming the photos were taken with ambient light. Please tell me you had to push the ISO though. Otherwise, I'd have to be one of those folks with blackout curtains.

Steffe said...

Luckily I am yet to meet a Vampire. I prefer sleeping in the dark and have never been able to fall asleep on a park bench.

Mary P. said...

I too have sleep difficulties. Without sound (radio, TV on low) I almost CANNOT sleep, which drives my husband nuts!