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

Laverne Higgins
June 13, 2019

Those who reported sleeping at night in a room with a television on or a light were more likely to gain at least 11 pounds over about five years than those who slept in darkness.

The authors acknowledge that other confounding factors could explain the associations between artificial light at night and weight gain. They were also about 30% more likely to become obese.

Although more studies are needed to cement the concept, experts say it makes "perfect biological sense" that having blue light around you at night could make you hungrier.

Can't catch some sleep without the television on at night?

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. "It's a pretty easy prevention effort to just turn off the lights before you go to bed", Ms Sandler said. A normal or healthy BMI is typically considered to be between 18.5 and 24.9.

"In our study exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping was associated with weight gain both in women with insufficient sleep - less than seven hours - and women with sufficient sleep - seven to nine hours", said Park, a researcher with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health in Research Park Triangle, North Carolina.

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The women's self-reported sleeping habits were put into four categories: no light, small nightlight in the room, light outside of the room, and light or television in the room.

Artificial light exposure at night from things like streetlights, storefronts, and even cell phone use, for example, can disrupt the natural light-dark cycle of circadian rhythms and suppress the release of the sleep hormone melatonin.

However, researchers were quick to point out that exposure to artificial light at night can be indicative of socioeconomic disadvantage or unhealthy behaviors, which could contribute to weight gain and obesity. 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, from the University of Surrey, commented on the study, saying: 'The findings make flawless biological sense. "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.

'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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