Sleeping with lights on can be harmful to your health

In a recent PNAS study, researchers demonstrate that acute exposure to artificial light during nighttime sleep, even for one day, can increase heart rate and insulin resistance by activating the sympathetic nervous system.  

Study: Light exposure during sleep impairs cardiometabolic function. Image Credit: Dikushin Dmitry / Shutterstock.com

Background

Acute exposure to artificial light during nighttime sleep is a common circumstance in industrial areas. Given the significance of the light-dark cycle in various physiological functions, acute light exposure during sleep is considered to be harmful to human health and wellbeing.

In this context, studies have shown an association between light exposure and metabolic abnormalities. It has been hypothesized that light-mediated metabolic alterations could be related to changes in normal sleep patterns. Alternatively, there is evidence showing that light-induced changes in the endogenous circadian rhythm might influence metabolic functions.

Light exposure can also alter autonomic nervous system functions by activating the sympathetic nervous system. This can result in sleep disturbances and metabolic disruption.  

In the current study, scientists investigate whether acute exposure to light during nighttime sleep increases insulin resistance the next morning.

Study design

A total of 20 adult individuals participated in the study. Of the study participants, ten were randomly selected for the room light condition and the rest were selected for the dim light condition.

In the room light condition, the participants spent one night in dim light and the next night in room light. In contrast, participants in the dim light condition spent both nights in dim light.

The next morning, insulin resistance was measured using the homeostatic model of insulin resistance known as the Matsuda insulin sensitivity index, as well as an oral glucose tolerance test. The mechanism of light-induced metabolic changes was also assessed by considering how the light conditions impacted sleep quality, melatonin level, and sympathetic nervous system activity.

Important observations

A 15% induction of insulin resistance was reported in the room light condition participants, whereas a 4% reduction in insulin resistance was observed in participants who were exposed to dim light conditions. Regarding insulin sensitivity, a 16% reduction and a 3% induction were observed in room light and dim light conditions, respectively.

No significant difference in blood glucose levels was reported between room light and dim light conditions. However, a significant increase in insulin levels was observed in those exposed to room light conditions.

Analysis of sleep quality

The analysis of sleep quality conducted one week after the exposure revealed no difference in bedtime, sleep duration, and sleep efficiency between the groups.

The analysis of sleep macrostructure conducted during the experiment revealed that participants belonging to the room light condition spend more time in stage N2 and less time in slow-wave and rapid eye movement sleep. In contrast, no difference in sleep microstructure, otherwise known as slow oscillatory activity, was observed between the groups.  

Importantly, no association was observed between nighttime changes in sleep macrostructure and day-time changes in insulin resistance.

Analysis of sympathetic activity

Heart rate, blood pressure, and heart rate variability were measured to determine activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

A significant induction in heart rate and reduction in heart rate variability during nighttime sleep was observed in participants belonging to the room light condition. A lower heart rate variability indicates a higher sympathovagal balance. Importantly, a significant association was observed between higher night-time sympathovagal balance and higher day-time insulin resistance.

Implications

The study findings indicate that light exposure during nighttime sleep can significantly alter cardiometabolic functions, primarily by increasing activation of the sympathetic nervous system. However, no impact of nighttime light exposure on melatonin levels was observed, thus indicating no significant involvement of circadian rhythms in light-induced cardiometabolic alterations.

The current study has special implications for individuals who live in urban and industrial areas where exposure to indoor and outdoor light is increasing widely. For better cardiometabolic health, these individuals may benefit from restricting light exposure at night, especially while sleeping.

Journal reference:

  • Mason, I. C., Grimaldi, D., Reid, K. J., et al. (2022). Light exposure during sleep impairs cardiometabolic function. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.2113290119.  

Baby News

Related Posts

self-care tips for parents and caregivers

Comments Off on self-care tips for parents and caregivers

Encouraging positive behavior in young children – CHOC

Comments Off on Encouraging positive behavior in young children – CHOC

States fight student mental health crisis with days off

Comments Off on States fight student mental health crisis with days off

GCH Pediatric Practice provides a model for addressing vaccine hesitancy and barriers

Comments Off on GCH Pediatric Practice provides a model for addressing vaccine hesitancy and barriers

Pelvic fixation may not be necessary in some children with cerebral palsy and scoliosis

Comments Off on Pelvic fixation may not be necessary in some children with cerebral palsy and scoliosis

Deaf children with developmental delays are better served with cochlear implants than hearing aids

Comments Off on Deaf children with developmental delays are better served with cochlear implants than hearing aids

Association between infant intestinal microbiome and respiratory diseases of childhood

Comments Off on Association between infant intestinal microbiome and respiratory diseases of childhood

Majority of adolescents are self-conscious about their appearance, new poll suggests

Comments Off on Majority of adolescents are self-conscious about their appearance, new poll suggests

Oral polio vaccine could play a role against COVID-19

Comments Off on Oral polio vaccine could play a role against COVID-19

Young people with cancer face inequalities in fertility preservation services across the UK

Comments Off on Young people with cancer face inequalities in fertility preservation services across the UK

Scientists identify new genetic disease that delays children’s intellectual development

Comments Off on Scientists identify new genetic disease that delays children’s intellectual development

Protein intake contributes to enhanced height in girls

Comments Off on Protein intake contributes to enhanced height in girls

Create Account



Log In Your Account