Don't just sit there. Turn up the lights. The too-short days of winter might lead to the blues, but that's not the worst of it: they can also wreak havoc on your body and brain. Long nights disrupt the body's natural circadian rhythm, releasing hormones that can exacerbate pain and cloud the mind. Read on to see how human behavior goes haywire when daylight becomes scarce.
Dining in the Dark
Candlelit dinners may be romantic, but they are not so good for your health—especially if you're trying to lose weight. Dieters who eat with the lamps turned low eat more than those who dine in bright light, according to a study in Personality and Individual Differences. Psychologist Joseph Kasof believes that darkness lowers self-awareness, which makes people less focused on their caloric intake and less concerned about their dieting goals. An easy fix: Switch the bulbs in your dining area to stronger ones.
The Cringe in Dinge
The dimmer your domain, the more you feel pain. A study from the University of Pittsburgh examined people recovering from operations in different sections of a hospital. Patients on the shady side reported more physical suffering and needed 28 percent more pain medication than those on the sunny side. "We know that levels of serotonin, which is a natural antidepressant, go up with sunlight," says Bruce Rabin, a professor of psychiatry and pathology at the University of Pittsburgh. "A side effect is that the boost also reduces perception of pain." The benefits don't stop there—a study at Johns Hopkins University found that patients recuperating in bright rooms were ready to go home more than two days sooner than those in dimmer rooms.