Artificial lights to increase the risk of obesity in women

A recent study, featured in JAMA Internal Medicine, points out that artificial light during sleep imposes greater risks of obesity on women. It states that women who sleep with a light or TV on are at greater risks of developing obesity. Usually, an unhealthy diet and little exercise are the most highly studied factors, contributing to the rising obesity epidemic. Now, this study declares artificial lights as another culprit for such a situation. Others, such as genetics and sleep, are emerging as additional players.

Research studies often declare a close link between lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, and one’s weight. How much does a person weigh, depends on a complex interplay of personal and societal factors. Since the mid-1970s, the rate of obesity has nearly tripled across the globe. In addition, an estimated 70% of the United States’ population is overweight or have obesity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) link obesity with increased chances of a person to develop adverse health conditions like

  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cancer
  • Mental health problems

What did the researchers do?

For the study, the research team involved 43,722 women who were a part of the Sister Study. This study looked at the environmental risk factors and the chances of developing breast cancer. At the start of this respective research, every participant provided details about their exposure to artificial light at night (ALAN).

Researchers divided the volunteers into four categories,

  • No light
  • Small night-light in the room
  • The light outside the room
  • Light or television on in the room

Researchers had access to the data of the Sister Study. They included the women’s weight, height, and hip and waist circumference. They also had the women’s self-reported height and weight measurements at both the start and the follow-up, which occurred after an average of 5.7 years.

The research team identified a correlation between increasing levels of light exposure and health outcomes at the beginning of the study. The more light a woman is exposed to during sleeping environment, the higher were her body mass index (BMI) and waist to hip ratio. In addition, the results reported shorter sleep duration, and lower physical activity and healthful eating scores.

The women who had a television or light on had a 17% higher risk of gaining 5kgs. Moreover, they had a 13% higher risk of BMI increase of 10%.


This respective study is limited in various ways like the fact that light exposure was self-reported and that they did not take into consideration why women chose to sleep with lights on in the room or whether light exposure changed over time. Although, the study provides stronger evidence than other previous studies, however; it is still not conclusive.

The research team plans on looking at how environmental light exposure affects weight. Also, they aim at investigating the links between artificial light and other health conditions like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

Sleeping with electronic gadgets on is a habit to break, as it not only promotes obesity but is equally harmful to eyesight



Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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