Heading to bed? You might want to seriously lose the smartphone. Another study recently came out explaining the ill-effects light exposure can have on our health as we head to bed. Even small amounts of light from electronics (phone, iPad, TV, etc) can do damage—and we’re not just talking about difficulty falling asleep.
In the study, researchers poured over an extensive amount of data to find a potential role artificial light at night (LAN) could have as an endocrine disruptor (EED), which is a compound that can alter the physiological function of the endocrine system and lead to serious issues like cancer. The data unveiled three prominent health risks:
Disrupting your sleep.
This one is the most obvious, but important to reiterate. Our circadian clock (which also manages our endocrine tissue rhythm), can easily be thrown off if there’s too much light exposure at night, especially since our bodies are synced to a 24-hour solar day. This disruption could lead to poor sleep, which puts you at risk for other health issues, like depression.
Causing potential weight gain.
LAN is shown to have a negative impact on blood glucose levels, which could cause weight gain and interfere with metabolic function, all without any mention of a midnight snack. LAN also suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, which disrupts the hormone leptin that signals to your brain you’re full.
Increasing cancer risk.
While is seems like everything can cause cancer these days, multiple studies have looked at the potential connection between light exposure and certain cancers, like breast cancer. For example, a decrease of melatonin may disturb estrogen regulation, which could lead to an increased breast cancer risk.
— HarvardPublicHealth (@HarvardChanSPH) September 3, 2017
So, how much light is bad for you?
One of the study’s researchers, Kathryn L.G. Russart (who is a postdoctoral researcher at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus) explains as low as 5 lux of light (a lux is a light unit scientists use) can disrupt your circadian rhythm. To give you an idea of how strong a lux is, a cell phone near your face can emit 40 lux.
You Should Also Read: Understanding Natural Sleep Patterns
There are a lot of studies that discuss the connection between light exposure and poor health. While science is by no means perfect, if you’re looking to lose the light before bed, begin limiting screen exposure two to three hours right before bedtime. To help promote darkness, consider using blackout curtains or an eye mask. And if you need even more sleep support, you could always consider sleeping with a robot.