Keeping Lights On at Bed Time Suppresses Melatonin

Sleep is regulated by a signaling molecule known as melatonin. It is produced by the pineal gland of the brain prior to the regular time of sleep. Exposure to light before sleep time does not allow proper production of this hormone.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School, Boston and at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital have found that the consequences of light exposure can be much severe leading to rise in blood pressure, glucose levels and disruption in the body temperature regulation.

The results of this study will be published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM). These conclusions are going to affect millions of people who prefer to keep the lights on prior to and while sleeping.

What Research Learnt About the Exposure of Light and Melatonin Levels?

  • The hormone is known for its ability to keep hypertension and body temperature at low.
  • The possibility of this hormone as a possible treatment for lack of sleep and even cancer is been explored.
  • The researchers wanted to learn how exposure to electrical light in late evening affected the production of this signaling molecule.
  • 116 healthy participants belonging to the age group 18-30 years were part of the study.
  • For five days, these participants were exposed to full light or dim light eight hours before their bed time.
  • For measuring the levels of melatonin, a catheter was inserted through the veins of the participants which collected samples of blood every 30-60 minutes.

Results of the study revealed that exposure to room light brought down the ability of melatonin to make us feel sleepy before bed time by 90 minutes in comparison to dim light exposure. Light exposure during sleep brought down the functioning of this hormone by 50 percent.

  • The link between receptors of this hormone with type 2 diabetes has been established by some pilot research studies.
  • Some researchers suggest that suppression of this hormone for its normal functioning might increase the chances of certain types of cancer.

Conclusion: As the number of night shift workers is on the rise in the corporate sector, the possible health implications of this present research should be taken into consideration by the concerned authorities. Further research is believed to be imperative for finding the mechanism by which this hormone raises the risk of cancer and increases the blood sugar levels on its suppression.

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