This Nighttime Habit May Be Linked To Weight Gain, Study Finds

Grant Boone
June 12, 2019

Or do you need a light on to fall asleep?

But researchers said they hoped the study will give women who sleep with artificial light at night a way to improve their health.

Measurements were also taken to record each woman's weight, height, and her waist-to-hip ratio (which can be used to gauge where fat sits on the body).

Obesity affects 39.8 percent of adults in the United States, according to government data; in Australia, two-thirds of adults (67 percent) are overweight or obese. "If these study findings are true and if they can be replicated then it's a very easy public health message to turn off the lights when you're sleeping".

The study analyzed the sleeping habits of almost 44,000 women in the United States. A BMI of 30 and higher is considered to be obese.

Others reported light shining in from porch lights, auto headlights or street lights, as well as light from other rooms.

Respondents reported exposure to artificial light at night (ALAN) from televisions, smart phones, computers, e-readers and tablets, which emit a short wavelength-enriched light or "blue light" that previous research has linked to melatonin suppression and circadian disruption.

The results suggest that cutting off lights at bedtime could reduce women's chances of becoming obese.

The women were then tracked for more than five years, on average.

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According to scientists, women who are exposed to artificial light in the evenings are more likely to gain weight. The association with having light coming from outside the room was more modest.

The study had some limitations, including that only an association was observed in the data - not a causal relationship.

"Another limitation is that our data are based on self-reports", Sandler said.

The research showed that women who slept with a television or other light on in the same room at night were 17 percent more likely to have gained 11 pounds or more over the five-year follow-up period than those who slept with a small night light.

Animal research and smaller studies in humans have linked prolonged light exposure with weight gain. Health officials recommend taking TVs and other tech devices out of your bedroom in order to support a healthy sleeping environment. "It indicates that we need to respect our sleep and respecting our sleep means making a sleep environment devoid of any type of light ideally".

"We know that light in the late evening will delay our body clocks".

The National Institutes of Health study published Monday isn't proof, but it bolsters evidence suggesting that too much exposure to light at night could pose health risks.

"These new findings won't change the advice to maintain good sleep hygiene, and avoid light and electronic distractions in the bedroom, but they add further strength to the case for this advice".

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