A recent article published in the Science Daily (October 11, 2010), noted that “Persistent exposure to light at night may lead to weight gain, even without changing physical activity or eating more food, according to new research in mice.”
The study noted that it was a timing of eating issue. The article suggested that the bigger weight gains for the mice living with light at night were because the mice tended to eat at times they normally wouldn’t, particularly when they WERE NOT ACTIVE. They ate the same number of calories, just at the wrong times.
A follow-up study found that those “mice exposed to light at night — but that had food availability restricted to normal eating times [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][WHEN THEY WERE ACTIVE] gained no more weight than did mice in a normal light-dark cycle.”
This may seem like a new discovery to assist people in their efforts to lose weight and maintain weight. However, over the years, we have observed that many night shift workers have difficulty with weight gain, just like the mice. This includes many of the medical persons who work night shifts at their hospitals.
At NBH Lifetime Health, we have consistently advised our night shift clients to blacken their rooms to make it as dark as possible when they sleep. We have also advised those clients who do not work at night, to turn off all lights in their bedrooms and ensure that no light from the outside is shining into their bedrooms. TURN OFF THE NIGHT LIGHT TV!
Conclusion: One way to avoid weight gain if you work the night shift (like many medical persons) is to eat at normal times, that is, when you are active.
Melatonin: There are other factors at work here besides the timing of your eating, including the effects of the hormone Melatonin. This hormone is designed to increase at night and decrease with light.
When it is high, Melatonin helps ensure your deep sleep. As we age, this is one of many hormones that decrease. When Melatonin is low (exposed to light), it helps you wake up and stay awake. This is a reason to expose yourself to natural sunlight and perhaps take Melatonin at night (or day if you work night in a darkened room).
Timing of Eating: At our clinics, we also recommend that you not only you eat at those times when your body is still active, but if you work days, eat early in the evening, preferably so there are at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. If you must have a late night snack (for example to maintain glucose control), eat a small portion of protein.
By NBH, Director of Education & Research
NBH Lifetime Health Weight Loss & Hormone Clinics, Medline South