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 U.S. research suggests. The National Institutes of Health study published Monday isn’t proof, but it bolsters evidence suggesting that too much exposure to light at night could pose health risks.
“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. “It’s much more important than people realize for a whole variety of health reasons.”
Daily exposure to light and darkness helps maintain our 24-hour body clock,which regulates metabolism, sleep-promoting hormones,blood pressure, and other bodily functions. Mounting research suggests disrupting that typical sleep-wake cycle may contribute to poor health, increasing risks for high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and obesity.
The researchers analyzed health and lifestyle data on nearly 44,000 U.S. women enrolled in an ongoing study seeking clues to causes of breast cancer. The analysis focused on data on sleep, light exposure and weight gain during the study, but not on breast cancer. Results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Women in the study had medical exams and filled out health and lifestyle questionnaires when they enrolled and periodically after. 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 yearsthan those who slept in darkness. They were also about 30 percent more likely to become obese.
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