The soothing sounds of sitcom reruns or late night movies can act as a comforting white noise while drifting into slumber. But the seemingly harmless habit, that so many of us have, might actually be causing unwanted weight gain.
A study published by the National Institutes of Health this week found that women who sleep with a light or television on are 17 percent more likely to gain 11 pounds or more over a five year period. Researches observed 43,722 women from ages 35 to 74 who slept with no light, a small nightlight, light coming in from outside of their room, or with a television on. They measured weight, height, waist and hip circumference, and body mass index and did the same again five years later.
Most of the light exposures showed little to no issues in regards to weight, but women who slept with a light or television on packed on more pounds. According to the research, light can "suppress the sleep hormone melatonin and the natural 24-hour light-dark cycle of circadian rhythms," which can lead to weight gain.
In a press release, co-author of the study, Chandra Jackson, PhD, said, “Exposure to artificial light at night may alter hormones and other biological processes in ways that raise the risk of health conditions like obesity.” Lead author Yong-Moon (Mark) Park, MD, PHD, added that, “This study highlights the importance of artificial light at night and gives women who sleep with lights or the television on a way to improve their health.”
In other words, if you sleep with the TV or a light on and have been struggling to shed pounds despite your best efforts with diet and exercise, pressing the off button might finally make the difference. If falling asleep without your favorite show sounds impossible, try something soothing like a self-massage or this breathing technique before bed. We can’t say for sure, but it could be the simple fix you’ve been looking for this whole time. Plus, you might find yourself feeling more rested come morning — which is always a good thing!