In today’s episode of “Bad News to Our Waistlines”, science has just found that our cellphones could be making us gain weight. To get specific, it’s the type of light being emitted from our cellphone screens that’s at fault and not our dependence on Postmates and GrubHub at 3am—although I suspect that could play a role.
This scientific study from the University of Strasbourg and the University of Amsterdam was presented earlier this month at a conference in the Netherlands. The study was based on the premise that blue light from LED screens found on our phones, laptops, and tablets have an impact on the areas of the brain that regulate appetite. The retinal sensitivity to these kinds of lights causes our bodies to send a message to our brain telling us to consume more sugar.
The study specifically looked at the effects of blue light exposure on diurnal rats (that are awake during the day and asleep at night, like humans—as opposed to regular rats, who are nocturnal). The rats were exposed to the blue light at night for one hour. The day after exposure, the rats were given options to choose between rodent food (standard, nutritionally balanced), water, lard, and sugar water. After the nights with exposure to blue light, the rats consumed more sugar compared to nights with no exposure. The light also seemed to alter their glucose tolerance.
There are a few things to consider. Because the rats were all males, the scientific study does not show if the outcome would be the same on female rats. The rats were also only tested on for one night, so we have a very short time period to work with. If these effects were repeated, then over time, the rats would experience weight gain and develop diabetes with exposure to blue light. Still, even given the limited scope of the results, the authors of the study recommend limiting the time spent in front of screens at night, using night mode on devices, and/or using blue light filtering goggles to lessen the impact of LED lights on our appetite.
Now while this study was conducted on rats, I do think the results send a message of the impact electronic devices have on our human bodies. The recommendation of limiting screen time and using blue light filtering apps and goggles make a lot of sense, not only in terms of appetite control, but also because previous studies have shown blue light impacts quality of sleep. There are more studies on the internet on blue light’s effects on sleep, so I did further research. I was able to discover that the shorter wavelengths in LED light affect our bodies’ ability to produce melatonin, which is the sleepy hormone. To connect the dots further, melatonin also directly effects weight gain/losses, in that it helps your body regulate leptin and adiponectin hormones. These two hormones regulate your appetite. So while the original study suggests that the appetite change is due to blue light affecting the appetite-regulating part of our brain, it could be possible that the blue light is also disrupting our bodies’ ability to create essential hormones.
Our parents and grandparents used to read a book (real, not electronic) before bed, whereas nowadays we’re scrolling through IG until we’re close to passing out. Turns out, they were on to something. Personally, I’m terrible at staying off the phone immediately before bed and immediately upon waking up. I am constantly laying down, reaching for my phone, which evidently is not the healthiest habit. With all this research on the negative impacts blue light has on our health, I will definitely be making a conscious effort to step back from the phone. Will you be lessening screen time with me? Sound off below, I would love to hear your thoughts!
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If you have a sense of humor and working eyes, you will agree that all of Sgt. Olivia Betchson’s articles are hilarious. However, I didn’t laugh very much at one of them (even though the jokes were spot-on) because I could relate to it a little too hard. I once had the exact same problem she is currently experiencing—insomnia—and, as all Fight Club fans know, insomnia is no f*cking joke. In fact, it’s horrible, and I
don’t wish it on my worst enemies. Luckily, my bout of no sleep happened during my college years when I only had to use my brain for a few hours a day, and could spend the rest of my time drinking and editing Instagrams of me pretending that everything is going great! Spoiler alert: everything was not going great.
Insomnia affects everyone slightly differently, and it affected me the way dementia affects your grandma. For those of you who are about to tell me that was an insensitive joke, it wasn’t a joke! I participated in a sleep study, which officially ruled that my brain had been in a dementia-like state since the insomnia started, just six months before. And unfortunately for everyone who knew me at the time, I was in that terrifying state for another eight months. Ugh, so nostalgic for my fun and carefree college days! Because my Sergeant already went into detail re: how awful insomnia is, I’m just going to say “seconded on all counts” and talk about happier things, like natural ways to fall asleep that don’t involve counting sheep, aight? Full disclosure: these methods work for me now, four years after I countered the problem with both medication prescribed by my doctor and a tightly packed joint. I don’t still have insomnia (bless up), but I get really nervous that it’s coming back on nights when I can’t sleep, and on those days, I practice the below natural ways to fall asleep. You’re welcome, fam.
Read A Boring Book
I was an English major and legit enjoy reading. You aren’t allowed to be an English major if you don’t. So I got in the habit of turning off my laptop and putting my phone face down (after setting my alarm, of course) once I decided it was time for my bedtime story. FYI, I still do this every night and I will never not refer to it as my bedtime story. Cute or creepy, LMK in the comments! Anyway, when I first started doing this, I was reading Lolita, which is like the absolute worst book to read if you don’t want to be up all night thinking about a full-grown adult man who’s planning a cute little scheme to kidnap his wife’s adolescent daughter so he could bang her whenever he so pleases. Don’t get me wrong, Lolita is an incredible book and everyone should read it, but if you’re using it as a sleep aid, you may as well just sip an espresso or pop an Addy while you read because this book will not let you doze for one second. It will haunt you until the day you die.
If you’re going the book route, read something slightly less “active,” as my 10th grade English Literature teacher referred to it. My weapon of choice? Little Women. It is long af, which just inherently makes it incredibly boring, and the plot moves slower than your IBS on a bad day. Another boring af option? Pamela, an epistolary novel written in 1740 about a 15-year-old maidservant named Pamela Andrews, whose employer, Mr. B, makes unwanted and inappropriate advances towards her. Wow, I guess times really haven’t changed at all!
Get An Aromatherapy Diffuser
Guys, this is the best purchase I have ever made and I got it from my favorite place in the world: Bed, Bath and f*cking Beyond. Coincidence? Nope! So every aromatherapy machine is different, but they all kind of do the same thing, which is release a cute little puff of steam that’s infused with essential oils. Mine is by a brand called Ellia and it’s really pretty, which doesn’t really matter, but it sits on my window sill where everyone can see it, so it actually matters a lot. They are so simple and easy to use, and pretty affordable. There’s a little vessel where you pour a certain amount of water and a few drops of your fave essential oil, which lasts literally forever. I’ve been on the same vial of lavender oil for two years now and still have a f*ck ton left. You can use whichever oil you prefer, but if you’re using the aromatherapy diffuser to help you sleep, I’d stay away from citrus scents and opt for more of a lavender or chamomile situation, since those are proven relaxers. Turning on the diffuser a good hour or so before bed will def do the trick when you get sleepless night vibes. Some of them (mine, at least) even have music settings built in so you can either connect it with your Spotify or choose one of the diffuser’s playlists, which are all soothing water sounds. I just convinced myself to buy another one.
Try Breathing Techniques
Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. I learned the importance of paying attention to your breath in hot yoga, where breathing is like, actually kind of difficult. Breathing techniques work for two reasons. One, focusing on your breath helps you both control and slow it down, which, in turn, slows your heart rate down, which, in turn, will help ease you into sleep. Secondly, focusing on nothing but air going in and out of your lungs is boring af and should put you to sleep, like, ASAP. I don’t f*ck around with that stupid, in through your nose, hold it for ten seconds, then out through one of your nostrils then inhale for two seconds, hold for five then release again through, like, your eyes sh*t. Those kind of techniques are too complicated and stress me out. I keep it simple with breathing in through my nose slowly and releasing it through my mouth slowly. Easy. I learned this technique when I was on the track team in high school (MVP, obv) so that I could get through the 800 without having a stroke. And it worked! Your breath is obviously connected to a lot of systems in your body (and mind), so making sure it’s in a good place is integral to a good night’s sleep. That’s all!
Don’t Eat Right Before Bed
Look, I live in New York, home of eating dinner at 9pm, but having a full meal right before bed is not the move. I’ve been told that it’s more about what you eat than when, but since I have a very strict diet of pizza and cheeseburgers, I’ve been instructed to just not eat if I’m going to bed shortly after. If you are a functioning adult, having a light and nutrient-packed snack before bed is actually good. For you weirdos who eat salads and sh*t for lunch, low-energy food before bed can help keep your blood sugar levels in check, which, for some unfortunate souls out there, drop at night, and that is why these people wake up wanting to go on a homicide spree out of hanger come the morning! A lot of foods are low-key energy-boosting, but not in like a “Let’s go for a run” kind of way. All they do is make you feel tired, but they won’t let you sleep, kind of like my friends at parties.
Ok, so this next part is tricky, so pay attention. Having a small carb-y snack like warm milk, fruit, or crackers can actually help you fall asleep, because the sugars make nice with the serotonin in your brain, but having actual sugar like candy or cookies will have the opposite affect and you will be up all night, and not in a good way. The most important thing to remember is to not eat mindlessly before bed. Like, until I knew this, I physically couldn’t watch Netflix without a bag of pretzels in my hand, but that kind of habit may have kick-started my bad sleeping habits to begin with! F*ck you, pretzels!
Light A Candle
Try this at your own risk, but I’ve found that making my tiny closet of a bedroom feel like a spa in any way that I can has proven really helpful for my sleepiness. If it were up to me, I’d hire an interior designer to turn my apartment into Anthropologie, but sadly, my bank account is not down for that. Sad. I am not a regular at five-star spas, but I’ve been to a few, and I’ve noticed that they all have candles on every surface for ~relaxation~ purposes. And they nailed, it because I’ve fallen asleep in every spa I’ve ever visited. I have no shame in admitting that I have not one, not two, but eight candles in my room (all in cute containers, obv) and I love them all dearly. They are all really light and clean, which means I can light them all at the same time and the scents won’t be gross when mingling in the air! If my mom is reading this, my apartment is still standing, so relax. Lighting them all at once sans artificial light in the room serves some serious spa vibes and I am here for it. I usually fall asleep with all of them lit (#lit) and then wake up a few hours later to blow them out and then subsequently pass the f*ck back out. Candles are a must, people, and they are such an easy investment. All I ask is that you buy all-natural beeswax candles so you aren’t falling asleep to the heavenly scent of toxic fumes.
Obviously, everyone falls asleep differently, so I can’t guarantee that these sleep techniques will work for you. But I can guarantee that doing these things will help you feel more relaxed, and relaxed people usually sleep better. It’s like, science. Hopefully you’ll figure out what works for you so you can kick insomnia’s ass. Let me know in the comments if you have other methods that have worked for you!
Images: Unsplash; Giphy (5)