Bedroom light at night might cause women weight gain

Women exposed to artificial light at night were more likely to gain weight

Women, beware: Sleeping with a light on or the TV going in your bedroom could make you put on weight.

The analysis focused on data on sleep, light exposure and weight gain during the study, but not on breast cancer.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that light at night may be bad for health. The women were asked about their sleep habits and whether they slept in total darkness or in the presence of artificial light from a television or nightlight.

Poor sleep as a standalone factor has been proven to be associated with obesity and weight gain, but Dale Sandler, Ph.D. and a co-author of the research, said, "it does not explain the associations between artificial light exposure during sleep and weight gain".

The study, which didn't include men, admits that there are other factors that could explain the weight gain, such as age, race, socioeconomic status, physical activity and calories consumed.

In other words, exposure to light at night might represent a "constellation" of factors, including those related to unhealthy behaviors, "all of which could contribute to weight gain and obesity", the authors said.

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The findings are not conclusive however. "It seems reasonable to advise people not to sleep with lights on", Park and Sandler said. "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".

Artificial light has been shown to hamper sleep quality, and that's one of the reasons why blue-light-dimming features have crept into our mobile devices and computers. The few studies that have been conducted in the general population have typically collected data at a single point in time, so researchers haven't been able to determine whether light at night is tied to weight gain over time.

The participants, aged 35-74 years, had no history of cancer or cardiovascular disease and were not shift workers, daytime sleepers, or pregnant when the study began.

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

They were also about 30 per cent more likely to become obese.

Among the women, the researchers found that sleeping with a television or light on in the room was associated with gaining five kilograms or more, a BMI increase of at least 10%, and a higher risk of being overweight or obese, compared with being exposed to no artificial light during sleep. "We know from experimental studies in people that light at night affects our metabolism in ways that are consistent with increased risk of metabolic syndrome", he said.

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