There has been a lot of speculation about the increasing rates of obesity over the last few decades. Many of the causes of this phenomenon are well known, and I have covered them in past articles: the move from whole foods to more processed foods, a decrease in physical activity with the rise in technology, and the increasing intake of both regular and diet soda pop. One factor that often gets overlooked in this equation is the importance of a good night’s sleep.
Researchers in the UK (1) recently published the results of a survey of over 100,000 women covering a 10 year period. They found that light exposure at night disrupted the normal circadian rhythm (day-night cycle), and led to increased body mass index, and increased waist circumference.
If you are trying to shed pounds by increasing exercise, then bravo! Just don’t exercise late in the evening. Night should be a time for winding down, decreasing activity, and definitely minimizing exposure to light (no falling asleep with the TV on). The infographic below is a handy reminder of what’s known as good sleep hygiene. Use it to optimize your sleep, and maintain a healthier body weight.
1. McFadden E et al. The Relationship Between Obesity and Exposure to Light at Night. Am J Epidemiol. 2014;180(3):245-250.