Medicine

Falling asleep with TV, light on could cause weight gain, study finds

Falling asleep with TV, light on could cause weight gain, study finds

For example - the women who slept with the light or TV on were 22 percent more likely to put on weight - this could be because a lack of sleep makes you more hungry thanks to hormones that are released when you're exhausted.

Exposure to light at night - from the glare of a bedroom TV or a street light through a window - may do more than disrupt sleep; it may increase the risk of weight gain and obesity in women, a new study suggests.

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.

Women who slept with a light on were 17% more likely to gain 11 pounds or more over five years, the study found.

"Evolutionarily we are supposed to be sleeping at night, in a dark place", said lead author Dale Sandler, a scientist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

The NIEHS team is the first to spot this kind of connection between artificial light and weight gain. But new research points to another potential cause: how much light you're exposed to at night.

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.

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.

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"There was a dose response, in that the more light in the room the stronger the association", Sandler said.

Previous studies have found a link between exposure to light at night and obesity in humans.

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

The researchers took a close look at each woman's sleeping habits and her weight and obesity risk over a five-year period. The women also answered questions about their level of exposure to light at night while sleeping, such as light from other rooms, light from outside, light from a TV, or light in the bedroom.

Professor Malcolm von Schantz, a professor of chronobiology at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom who was not involved in the study, told the Science Media Centre that the study would have been stronger if the women had been wearing instruments that measured their activity as well as the exact amount of light they were exposed to, rather than depending on self-reports - "but the findings make flawless biological sense".

The findings didn't change when researchers accounted for women's diet and physical activity, which suggests that light during sleep may be important in weight gain and obesity.

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


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