Published: Fri, June 14, 2019
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Uh Oh, Sleeping with the TV on May Lead to Weight Gain

Uh Oh, Sleeping with the TV on May Lead to Weight Gain

Sleeping with a cellphone, bright alarm clock on or a television next to your bed puts women at risk for weight gain, a new study found.

"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.

Researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) examined 43,722 women aged 35 to 74 years.

The researchers considered several other compounding factors, like sleep deprivation, which could have played a role in the association between artificial light exposure at night and weight gain.

The participants self-reported the amount of artificial light they were exposed to at night - including from phone screens and TVs.

"We are in the middle of an obesity epidemic in the United States and the things that we usually think about for obesity prevention are hard for people to do - eat a better diet, get more exercise - and we don't seem to be making a dent", Sandler said.

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The researchers analyzed health and lifestyle data on almost 44,000 US women enrolled in an ongoing study seeking clues to causes of breast cancer. They weren't shift workers, daytime sleepers or pregnant when the study began. 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.

When controlling for other characteristics that may be associated with increased artificial light exposure at night, like age, race, having an older spouse or children in the house, socioeconomic status, calorie consumption and physical activity, the researchers' findings did not change.

The results showed that the women who slept with an artificial light or television in the same room were 17 per cent more likely to gain 5kg or more in the five year period.

Exposure to light at night - from the glare of a bedroom TV or a street light through a window - may do more than disrupt sleep; it may increase the risk of weight gain and obesity in women, a new study suggests. That being said, a direct link between artificial light in a bedroom and overall weight gain is still a bit startling to see.

"As with any study of association, two findings are true - true, but not directly related", he said.

For middle-aged and older women, sleeping with the television or lights on has been linked with higher odds of becoming obese, in a recent US study.

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