Light exposure during sleep may increase insulin resistance

June 04, 2018

According to preliminary results from a new study, nighttime light exposure during sleep may affect metabolic function. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that light exposure at night during sleep adversely impacts metabolic outcomes.

"Our preliminary findings show that a single night of light exposure during sleep acutely impacts measures of insulin resistance," said lead author Ivy Cheung Mason, PhD, who was a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine when this study was conducted. "Light exposure overnight during sleep has been shown to disrupt sleep, but these data indicate that it may also have the potential to influence metabolism."

In addition to Mason, the study authors include: Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD, professor and principal investigator; Daniela Grimaldi, MD, PhD, assistant professor; Kathryn J. Reid, PhD, professor; and Roneil Malkani, MD, assistant professor. All work at Feinberg School of Medicine, in the Department of Neurology.

Twenty healthy adults ages 18 to 40 were randomized into Dark-Dark (DD) or Dark-Light (DL) groups and run in parallel for a three day and two night stay. Participants had eight hours of sleep opportunity each night starting at habitual bedtime determined from one week of actigraphy with sleep diary. The DL group (n=10, 2 males, ages 26.61 ± 4.64 years) slept in the dark < 3 lux on Night 1 and slept in overhead room light of 100 lux on Night 2, while the DD group (n=10, 4 males, ages 26.78 ± 5.15 years) slept in the dark <3 lux on both Nights 1 and 2.

Overnight polysomnography and hourly blood sampling for melatonin were collected on both nights. Oral glucose tolerance tests were performed on both mornings following sleep in the dark or 100 lux of light. Changes from Day/Night 1 to Day/Night 2 were examined between DD and DL groups. Homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance change values were significantly higher (p<0.05) in the morning following sleep in the light (DL group) compared to sleep in the dark (DD group). This effect was primarily due to increased insulin levels for DL compared to DD group.

Results show that a single night of light exposure during sleep acutely impacts measures of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the diminished ability of cells to respond to insulin action transporting glucose out of the bloodstream and precedes the development of type 2 diabetes.

"These results are important given the increasingly widespread use of artificial light exposure, particularly at night," said Mason "The effect we see is acute; more research is needed to determine if chronic overnight light exposure during sleep has long-term cumulative effects on metabolic function."

The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented Monday, June 4, in Baltimore at SLEEP 2018, the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS), which is a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.
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This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants 5T32HL7909, P01AG11412, and 8UL1TR000150-05.

Abstract Title: Impact of Light Exposure during Sleep on Cardiometabolic Function

Abstract ID: 0117
Poster Presentation: Monday, June 4, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Board 191
Oral Presentation: Wednesday, June 6, 1:45 p.m. to 2 p.m., Room 325
Presenter: Ivy Cheung Mason, PhD

For a copy of the abstract or to arrange an interview with the study author or an AASM spokesperson, please contact AASM Communications Coordinator Corinne Lederhouse at 630-737-9700, ext. 9366, or clederhouse@aasm.org.

About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Established in 1975, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) improves sleep health and promotes high quality, patient-centered care through advocacy, education, strategic research, and practice standards (http://www.aasm.org). The AASM has a combined membership of 10,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals. For more information about sleep and sleep disorders, including a directory of AASM-accredited member sleep centers, visit http://www.sleepeducation.org.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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