A young version of us won’t sleep in darkness. We’re afraid of an entity that lurks in the shadows and could attack us while we’re unaware. Children’s imagination usually crosses their reality. But this fear fades out as we mature because brows are raised to those adults who are still paralyzed in the dark. But it is not unheard of.
A 2012 survey of Go Glow found that “40% of us are scared when walking around the house with the lights off”.
Our body needs the dark to prepare itself for sleeping mode; but for people with insomnia, the dark is the problem. A study in Ryerson University Sleep & Depression Lab in Toronto asked 93 undergraduates about their sleeping patterns. Half of them admitted to be poor sleepers and has a fear of the dark. A cause for this difficulty of sleeping is anticipation of a bad occurrence, which increases their arousal while in bed.
Humans have a heightened visual acuity. Most people take up to 30 min to adapt to darkness. And from thereon, they are more sensitive to movement.
There are two types of photoreceptors in our eyes’ retina – cones and rods. Cones detect color and function best in light while rods rule at night. Rods are more sensitive than cones. They also outnumber the cones, with 120 million rods to 7 million cones. This is the reason why we have a decent resolution at night; and since rods are savvy motion sensors, we are notice the slightest movement like a bump in the cabinet’s door.
It gets even better. Evolution helped primates like humans to be aware of predators paroling at night. Humans need to cope against predators like snakes that have superior visual system. Show a picture of a snake to an eight month old baby and they’ll recognize it faster than any other objects shown. Neurological studies also found that the visual system is connected to a group of brain structures responsible for “fear”.
Fear is normal. We feel it in danger so we can fight or flight and thus, increasing our survival. And along with our response of fear, there is dark. Darkness cannot be avoided. The sun has to retire and so does the lights.
With unalterable fear and darkness, the only way to avert it is to accept it. The person should learn how to calm themselves even in the darkness. Turning the lights on at night won’t help since it only reinforces the association of fear with dark and relief with light.
Are you still afraid of the dark?