Scientists at the National Institutes of Health suggests that sleeping with the television on or any source of artificial light in the room may be a risk factor for gaining weight or developing obesity.
The study is the first to find a connection between artificial light in the bedroom while sleeping and weight gain in women. The study did not include men.
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However, cutting off lights at night could reduce women’s risk of becoming obese.
The research published in JAMA Internal Medicine,
The researchers used questionnaire data from 43,722 women aged 35-74 years, in the Sister Study, cohort research that examines risk factors for breast cancer and other diseases.
The women were not shift workers, daytime sleepers, or pregnant when the study began. They had no history of cardiovascular disease or cancer.
The scientists take measurements at baseline and follow-up five years later, including body mass index, weight, height, waist and hip circumference, as well as self-reported information on weight.
The study’s questionnaire asked the participant whether they slept with the television on in the room, or any other artificial light inside or outside of the room.
The scientists analyzed the information, and they were able to comper obesity between women who reported sleeping in dark rooms and weight gain in women exposed to artificial light at night.
The results show that using a small nightlight was not associated with weight gain, whereas women who slept with light or television on were 17% more likely to have gained 11 pounds,(approximately 5 kilograms) or more, over the follow-up period. Having light coming from outside the room show modest in results.
The team wondered if not getting enough rest is a factor in the research’s results.
“Although poor sleep by itself was associated with obesity and weight gain, it did not explain the associations between exposure to artificial light while sleeping and weight,” said author Dale Sandler, Ph.D., chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH.
Co-author Chandra Jackson, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Social and Environmental Determinants of Health Equity Group, notes that for many who live in urban environments, the light at night is more common and should be considered. Light sources such as streetlights, neon signs, storefront can suppress the sleep hormone melatonin and the natural 24-hour light-dark cycle of human biorhythm.
The research authors acknowledge that other confounding factors could explain the connection between light at night, and weight gain.