Sleep experts warn cost-saving LED lights could interfere with residents, animals sleep & habits


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many cities have adopted LED lights because of the money it saves them, but experts warn it could negatively affect residents.

“There’s already a lot of complaints in cities that have already gone to this kind of lighting. But not only with the glare, but it also affects a lot of people’s sleep. Light in that wave length surprises our brain’s natural production of melatonin which is the substance that essentially regulates your internal body clock,” said Jason Graff, medical director for sleep disorders at St. Luke’s Health System.

“If you look at them, they look a lot whiter, the lights look a lot brighter but there can be a lot of harmful environmental and health effects related to those lights,” he said.

He says LED lights emit a lot of ‘blue light’, which is a shorter wave length, higher frequency, more intense light and is more harmful on the human retina.

“An extreme example is how it feels if you try to look up and stare into the sun versus how it feels when you stare into a campfire, which has very little blue light. It can increase glare it can cause damage to the retina,” Graff explained.

Jason Graff, medical director for sleep disorders St. Luke's Health System

Jason Graff, medical director for sleep disorders at St. Luke’s Health System.

Additionally, the blue light present in LED light, and also in tablets and cell phones, can lead to sleep disorders.

“That type of light suppresses melatonin at a time when those levels are supposed to be rising when things get dark,” Graff said. “If you had a lot of that light around that home/sleep environment, you might find it harder to fall asleep, you might find your sleep more fragmented, the rates of insomnia go up.”

He also warned that animals may also be affected by these LED lights shining outdoors in their habitats.

“Animals, though, also have certain processes and activities that only go on at night and if the LED light brightens up the area, it would interfere with their natural rhythms,” Graff said. “It may affect animals even more than humans.”

According to Digital Trends, the cost savings of the blue-light LEDs is significant. Approximately 30 percent of the energy a city uses comes from street-level lighting by municipalities, while another 60 percent of outdoor lighting costs goes toward lighting parking lots and garages. reports New York City hopes to recoup $14 million a year through its conversion of 250,000 streetlights to LEDs.