Published: Thu, June 13, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Sleeping with the TV on is linked to weight gain, study says

Sleeping with the TV on is linked to weight gain, study says

The researchers found that women who slept with a slept with a light or television on in the same room were 17% more likely to gain 5kg or more over the next five years.

"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 the study's corresponding author Dale Sandler, chief of the Epidemiology Branch at the NIEHS.

They were also 22% more likely to become newly overweight and 33% more likely to become newly 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.

Obesity affects 39.8 percent of adults in the USA, according to government data; in Australia, two-thirds of adults (67 percent) are overweight or obese.

Turn off the lights on your way out. Shorter sleep could prompt you to exercise less and eat more, he noted.

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A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy, while 25 to 29.9 is overweight, 30 or above is obese and 40 or higher is severely or morbidly obese. Sleeping with a light on outside the room was associated with only slight increases in weight.

The study is the first to find an association between exposure to artificial light at night while sleeping and weight gain in women, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funded the study.

So do you need to kick the habit and cut the lights?

Lead author of the study, Yong-Moon Park, Ph.D., said, "Unhealthy high-calorie diet and sedentary behaviors have been the most commonly cited factors to explain the continuing rise in obesity".

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. That's because artificial light at night can throw off your body clock and might be mixing up your metabolism causing you to gain weight.

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". 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.

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