Technology allows us to always be connected without ever truly shutting down or logging off. Whether your poison is late-night binge-watching or doom scrolling, have you ever thought about what this does to your health? Struggling to let go of your device before sleep could even be the reason behind those extra kilos.
Well, at least according to a study by international researchers from Northwestern Medicine, who says that sleeping with any amount of light at night increases your chance of obesity and other lifestyle diseases.
Study author Dr Minjee Kim aimed to demonstrate the prevalence of any light exposure at night being linked to a higher obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes in adults.
“Whether it be from one’s smartphone, leaving a TV on overnight or light pollution in a big city, we live among an abundant number amount of artificial sources of light that are available 24 hours a day.”
Kim is an assistant professor of neurology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine physician.
Who is more at risk?
The study was published in June in the journal SLEEP. If you are still young, you might want to ditch those electronics at night while you still can, says Kim.
Researchers found that half of the 552 study participants consistently had a five-hour period of complete darkness per day.
The rest of participants were exposed to some light even during their darkest five-hour periods of the day, which were usually in the middle of their sleep at night.
However, investigators still don’t know if obesity, diabetes, and hypertension cause people to sleep with a light on, or if the light contributed to the development of these conditions.
“It’s important for people to avoid or minimise the amount of light exposure during sleep,” says senior study co-author, Dr Phyllis Zee.
Zee and colleagues are considering an intervention study to test whether a restoration of the natural light-dark cycle improves health outcomes such as cognition.
Zee is chief of Sleep Medicine at Feinberg and a Northwestern Medicine physician.
Zee offered tips to reduce light during sleep:
- Don’t turn lights on. If you need to have a light on (which older adults may want for safety), make it a dim light that is closer to the floor.
- Colour is important. Amber or a red/orange light is less stimulating for the brain. Don’t use white or blue light and keep it far away from the sleeping person.
- Blackout shades or eye masks are good if you can’t control the outdoor light. Move your bed so the outdoor light isn’t shining on your face.