The Grapevine

Can Exposure To Light While Asleep Lead To Weight Gain In Women?

It seems that women should not only be wary of overeating at night if they don’t want to gain more weight. New research is shedding light — no pun intended — on how exposure to any source of light while asleep at night could lead to weight gain.

A group of researchers at the National Institutes of Health conducted a study on how night lights affect the weight of women. For the study, they analyzed data from nearly 44,000 women, aged 35 to 74 at the time of the research.

The women were actually enrolled in a different ongoing study that is trying to identify the different causes of breast cancer. What the researchers did was collect health and lifestyle data from them, particularly information that focused on their sleeping patterns, light exposure and weight gain in the course of the other study.

The team found that there’s evidence suggesting that exposure to night lights during sleep could pose health risks to women. Leaving the TV on while asleep or just using lamps and the lights in the bedroom could potentially disturb normal metabolism and other bodily processes, leading to weight gain and even obesity.

“Evolutionarily we are supposed to be sleeping at night, in a dark place,” Dale Sandler, a scientist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said. “It’s much more important than people realize for a whole variety of health reasons.”

Meanwhile, the study’s lead author, Dr. Yong-Moon Mark Park, who is a postdoctoral fellow at the same division of the National Institutes of Health, noted that the simple act of turning off the lights when sleeping at night could help reduce the probability of weight gain in women.

Park additionally explained that exposure to artificial light at night could suppress the sleep hormone melatonin in women and disrupt their natural sleep-wake cycle. As a result, these could disturb the levels of stress hormones and then affect other metabolic processes.

Park clarified that small nightlights are not an issue here, since they were not associated with weight gain. Only the bigger ones that light up the bedroom and the light coming from the television were found to disrupt certain processes in the body.

The findings from the study conducted by Park and his team were published in the JAMA International Medicine on Monday, June 10.

Sleep Pictured: A man sleeping on a bench in broad daylight. Pixabay