Artificial Light Affecting Sleep

Artificial Light = Weight Gain?


There has been a big shift on how we as humans wind down in the evening after a long day; we’re answering emails, scrolling through Instagram/Pinterest and binge watching our favorite shows. We are beings, that prior to our technological boom, never exposed our selves to artificial light. Today, however, we are dealing with artificial light exposure 24/7. Technology has been playing a more prominent role in our lives and affecting our rhythm of nature’s light and dark cycles.

A study published by Journal of Jama this month studied the relationship between women and their exposure to artificial light at night and the risk for developing obesity. Over a 5-year study, researchers found that women who slept with tv or lights on in the background had a 17% higher risk of gaining an average weight of ll pounds. The association from outside sources like natural light or outside the bedroom were more modest.  (There was no association of weight gain with small night lights, so don’t fret you can still keep your night light on if needed).

Even when you live in a city, the more natural glow coming from street lights and signs can affect your body’s production of melatonin and the natural circadian light-dark cycle, this disruption alone has been known to cause an increased risk of obesity.

Artificial light in the evening lowers our production of melatonin, which is responsible for determining how deeply we sleep throughout the night; a reduction in melatonin can have a much bigger impact, physiologically, than just weight gain.  If we don’t let our body rest and detoxify, we will start our next day with a lack of energy, increased hunger hormones and a cascade of different hormonal events.

Light stimulates alertness, which is great because as the sun rises in the morning we will get the boost of energy we need to start our day.  As the sun sets, our bodies begin the process of winding down and preparing for rest. When we expose ourselves to artificial light right up until bedtime we confuse our body because we are now sending a signal to our body to stay alert during the time we should be resting.

Melatonin is an important hormone for sleep; it naturally starts to rise in the evening when we have less contact with light, but when we continue to expose our selves later on in the night to the artificial light inhibits melatonin’s natural time-release.


Below are tips to best protect your health and natural light-dark cycles:

  • In your bedroom makes sure you have good blinds or black out curtains that fully block light because even the slightest sliver of light can affect sleep.
  • For night lights in hallways and bathrooms, if you need to get up in the night – use a nightlight with a red bulb. This type of light will be less disruptive.
  • Dim your lights or install low-watt, dimmable bulbs into your house lighting.
  • Avoid screen time at least an hour before bedtime, or start with changing your color screen to a grey tone. Also you can limit your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) by turning your phone to airplane mode or plugging your phone in outside your room.
  • Start wearing eye masks when you sleep
  • Wear blue light-blocking glasses. Blocks blue light which interferes with your melatonin production at night.
  • Install a program called f.lux on your computer. Helps reduce eye strain and reduce disruption from your sleep cycle.

Fact: In this study, eating later in the day . . . makes people lose less weight, and lose it slower.

Awareness Challenge this week: Sleep is just as important to your health as what you fuel your body with, so if you struggle with getting good sleep pick up one of the practices from above. 


Tune in next time; we’ll teach you the importance of listening to your body while exercising!  



In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about living a healthier lifestyle, reach out to us for our professional guidance and support. Give us a call!

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Your future depends on your dreams, so get some sleep!





Blog Photo Credit: Dr. Perlmutter

Cover Photo Credit: NIH


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