Women could gain weight by sleeping with TV on, study claims

Light at night while sleeping

Light at night while sleeping

Falling asleep to a movie or TV show could be helping you gain weight.

Dozing off to late-night TV or sleeping with other lights on may mix up your metabolism and lead to weight gain and even obesity, provocative but preliminary US research suggests. "Further prospective and interventional studies could help elucidate this association and clarify whether lowering exposure to ALAN while sleeping can promote obesity prevention".

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

The researchers analysed health and lifestyle data on almost 44,000 USA women enrolled in an ongoing study seeking clues to causes of breast cancer. They weren't shift workers, daytime sleepers or pregnant when the study began.

At their first check-in, the women were asked to report on their light exposure while they slept - whether they kept lights on in their rooms or in other rooms, whether light shone in through the windows, whether they slept with a TV on, and even from low-light sources such as clock radios.

By analyzing self-reported fluctuations in weight, height, waist/hip circumference, and body mass index over the five-year period, they found that artificial light does indeed affect weight-but not all light is created equal.

The new findings, published today (June 10) in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that "reducing exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping might be a useful strategy to prevent obesity", study lead author Dr. Yong-Moon Park, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and senior author Dale Sandler, chief of the NIEHS's Epidemiology Branch, told Live Science in an email.

The results varied with the level of artificial light at night exposure.

"Humans are genetically adapted to a natural environment consisting of sunlight during the day and darkness at night", said study co-author Chandra Jackson, PhD, from the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, in a statement.

Sleeping with a cellphone, bright alarm clock on or a television next to your bed puts women at risk for weight gain, a new study found.

Park said that exposure to artificial light at night may suppress the sleep hormone melatonin and disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle.

Sandler said she is confident that the added weight wasn't from things like snacking at night, because the analysis accounted for other variables that could have led to weight gain such as diet, physical activity and sleep duration.

The authors acknowledge that other confounding factors could explain the associations between artificial light at night and weight gain. "This study highlights the importance of artificial light at night and gives women who sleep with lights or the television on a way to improve their health".

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