As a reader of this magazine, you’re likely familiar with the term ‘sleep hygiene’ – that is, the habits and environmental factors that determine whether you enjoy a glorious night’s rest or find yourself glumly scrolling through Twitter at 4am.
You know caffeine and alcohol play their part (sorry), and perhaps you’ve learned not to binge-watch BBC dramas in bed. But there’s another crucial factor you might be overlooking – and it’s harming more than just your shut-eye.
Research by Northwestern University has found that even moderate light exposure during sleep – the flash of a passing car or the glimmer of an LED alarm clock – can prevent your body from properly powering down. This has a negative impact on your heart health and blood sugar levels, affecting your risk of diabetes, heart disease and even obesity.
Researchers found evidence that sleeping in a moderately lit room increases your heart rate – which, even if you are happily snoring, activates your sympathetic nervous system. At night, your parasympathetic should be running the show, allowing for proper recovery, but light exposure jeopardises this process.
What’s more, people who slept in a brighter room were more likely to show signs of insulin resistance the next morning, meaning their bodies struggled to use glucose from the bloodstream for energy, leading to a rise in blood sugar. This adds credence to research suggesting a link between poor sleep (even in those who aren’t fully aware of it) and weight gain.
Fortunately, there are simple solutions: invest in black-out blinds and keep your devices out of sight, or pop on an eye mask for a little first-class-cabin chic. Rest assured, it makes a difference.
Night-time light isn’t the only factor that can mess with your blood sugar...
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