Sometimes it’s better to be in the dark…
Well it is if you’re trying to lose weight, apparently. Neuroscientists have been studying the sleeping and eating patterns of mice, and have revealed that sleeping with a light on at night can lower chances of losing weight. They claim that if you don’t sleep in total darkness, there is actually a greater tendency to gain weight, even when your diet and exercise stays constant (weird).
Neuroscience PhD student Laura Fonken at the Ohio State University exposed three groups of mice to different amounts of light during the night hours:
- 1 group got constant light,
- a second group slept with a standard light cycle, i.e. 16 hours of light then 8 hours of darkness,
- and a third group were exposed to 16 hours of light and 8 hours of low light. They all were given the same amount of food.
The study showed that the two groups of mice that were exposed to light during the night gained 50 % more body mass than the mice than the mice who got to snooze in the dark.
“Although there were no differences in activity levels or daily consumption of food, the mice that lived with light at night were getting fatter than the others.” Fonken said.
The poor, chubby, light-exposed mice also started showing early signs of diabetes. Researchers think the extra light at night may have altered the mice’s levels of melatonin (a hormone that our body uses to signal when were tired and when its time to wake up).
Apparently, sleeping with any light exposure disrupts the release of melatonin and affects our sleep, altering the way that fat is metabolised overnight.
Sleep tight, now!
Personally, I doubt that eating like a hog and then sleeping in a sensory deprivation chamber will mean that you don’t get porky, but I guess that working with the body’s natural rhythms certainly can’t hurt, which is why the scientists go on to say that eating larger meals earlier, and having a relatively small supper (not too late at night) is also helpful.
Sexy sleep-wear... who needs it?
It it certainly true that in today’s urban environment, with streetlights, security lights, alarm clocks and all sorts of other goodies, we seldom do have total darkness when we sleep. Perhaps the ever widening girth of the population might be being affected by this, but I am pretty sure that all the sugar and fat laden junk we shovel in has much more of a negative impact.
Can’t hurt to turn the lights off, or get one of those geeky sleeping masks, though…