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  • Cameron Oglesby

A little extra light can mess up more than a good night’s sleep.

Do you sleep with a bedside lamp, a bedroom light, or the television on? If so, you’ve got lots of company; 40% of Americans do. But even a little extra light in your bedroom at night can raise your risks of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome, according to a Northwestern University School of Medicine study published just this month. That’s because light tricks your nervous system into reacting as if it were daytime.

Your body’s nervous system responds to daylight by kicking your heart into high gear and heightening your overall awareness for the day ahead. “Our results indicate that a similar effect is also present when exposure to light occurs during nighttime sleep,” says senior study author Dr. Phyllis Zee.

“We showed your heart rate increases when you sleep in a moderately lit room,” her colleague, Dr. Daniela Grimaldi, explains. “Even though you are asleep, your autonomic nervous system is activated. That’s bad. Usually, your heart rate together with other cardiovascular parameters are lower at night and higher during the day.” Specifically, your heart beats faster and contracts more forcefully, to speed oxygen- and nutrient-carrying blood to your muscles – which don’t need it because you’re sleeping.

Light in your bedroom at night also reduces your muscle, fat, and liver cells’ ability to respond to insulin by burning up glucose in your blood for energy. Over time, your pancreas makes more insulin to compensate, and your blood sugar levels go up. When those levels get high enough for long enough, that’s prediabetes, a precursor of type 2 diabetes.

Fortunately, protecting yourself from these risks is as easy as turning off a light switch. Specifically:

· Turn the lights off before you go to bed.

· If you need a night light for safety, get one that’s dim and keep it close to the floor and as far as possible from the bed.

· Your body “sees” white or blue light as daylight, so use an amber or reddish orange night light instead. Computer and television monitors give off blue light.

· Move your bed so that outdoor light doesn’t shine on your face.

· If you can’t control light coming in from outdoors, try blackout curtains or an eye mask.

· If you can see things clearly in your darkened bedroom, it’s probably too light.

It’s amazing how little things like light leakage can have big, seemingly unrelated effects. That’s why we pay so much attention to the little things, not just the big and obvious ones, when we design holistic senior care management plans for our clients. The detailed, three-part needs assessment we start with covers not only the client’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and psychosocial health, but also the clients’ and their families’ preferences and priorities. The result is care custom-tailored to each individual we serve.

Please contact us to learn all the details.

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