Why Leaving the Light on Increases Weight Gain

December 11, 2016 | 275 views

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Many people are used to sleeping with a night light or with the lights on. Some have grown acclimated to the light through habit, while others are simply afraid of the dark. What these people fail to understand is that this decision can have serious health repercussions.

Studies on Weight Gain and Light Exposure

Researchers from the Ohio State University conducted a study where they exposed three groups of mice to different light sources and intensities. They found that the second and third group, which were exposed to 24 hours of light, whether on full intensity or dimmed, showed an increased appetite.

The mice ate more at the time when they were supposed to be asleep. This is an indirect reflection of our idea of “midnight snacking.” The Nara Medical University School of Medicine in Japan also conducted a study that showed that there is a direct link between the lighting conditions and obesity.

Hormones and Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is one of the cornerstones of optimal health, because it allows the body systems to rejuvenate and restore itself after a day or activity and exertion. It also helps recharge the body so it will have enough energy for the next day. Studies suggest that a lack of sleep can undermine your health. Research shows that people who do not get the recommended amount of sleep or sleep less than four hours had fluctuations in their hormones.

One of those hormones, leptin, is responsible for inhibiting hunger. The other hormone, ghrelin, is responsible for making you feel hunger by stimulating your appetite. Sleep deprivation results in a decreased production of leptin, and an increased production of ghrelin.

In addition, the less sleep you get, the more your body produces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for regulating blood sugar, fat and carbohydrate metabolism as well as blood pressure levels. The increased production causes an increase in appetite.

Increased stress levels due to insufficient sleep also make you crave high-caloric food. These allow your body to produce serotonin, a hormone that helps you calm down. People also have a higher chance of eating sweet and starchy foods because sleep deprivation causes the brain to send out a message or a craving for glucose, which is the brain’s primary fuel.

Sleeping in Total Darkness May Be a Key Factor in Disease Prevention

The production of melatonin is also influenced by the amount of light that you are exposed to at night. Studies suggest that light exposure at the wrong times of the day has the ability to change the pattern of melatonin secretion.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which helps you fall asleep. It is also responsible for the regulation of your biological clock, and is also associated with the body’s energy expenditure. It is secreted in the brain and helps in the regulation of biochemical processes, such as the decreasing of estrogen that is produced in the body. Studies also suggest that melatonin has a direct link to the prevention of cancer and age-related diseases.

If you require light at night and you have no choice, go for the red nightlights because their intensity and the wavelength have the least effect on the pituitary glands.

Tips for Sleeping Without Lights

The body’s biological clock has always been regulated by light exposure through the solar cycle.  However, since the advent of electricity we have been awash in artificial light. This unpredictable light pattern, keeps us from establishing a clear and constant circadian rhythm. In order to help your body recuperate and maintain a healthy body clock, try these healthy sleep tips:

  • Keep your sleeping time as constant as possible
  • Avoid artificial light when it’s your bedtime
  • Install blackout drapes
  • Cover your electric clock or anything that emits light

Weight Gain and Intermittent Fasting

If you’ve already gained weight because of this common mistake, there are numerous ways to help you lose the excess fat. I recommend intermittent fasting because it helps you lose or manage your weight without depriving your body of the nutrients that it needs. Intermittent fasting involves timing your meals and putting intervals between them.

I suggest that you time your food intake between 11 am to 7 pm and fast until the next day. This kind of fasting provides the body with numerous benefits, like normalizing insulin and leptin sensitivity, normalizing ghrelin hormone and lowering your triglyceride hormones.

These tips will help your body establish a daily pattern and reset your internal clock. These recommendations will help you avoid unnecessary weight gain, and allow you to face the day alert and well-rested. For more information about the connection between weight gain and light exposure, read this article, “Make This Common Mistake While Sleeping and Risk Gaining Weight.”