When Thomas Edison coaxed a carbonized cotton thread to burn for 14 hours in October of 1879, he lit the world — and murdered sleep.
One hundred and thirty-four years later, nearly 9 million Americans have to take pills to fall asleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a quarter of us sleep poorly even after we do. For this, we can blame stress and Starbucks, yes. But we must also blame artificial light, which disrupts ancient and essential rhythms. Artificial light also kills birds and bats, wastes tax dollars, obscures the stars, and, as the enabler of third-shift work, is a “probable carcinogen.” Our electrifying hero is morphing into a villain.