Is the TV in Your Room a Major Health Risk?

June 27, 2019 Updated: April 26, 2020

If you’re falling asleep to the nightly news or the latest episode of Chicago, it could be wreaking havoc on your health. A new analysis is showing a host of dangers associated with nighttime television watching from the comfort of your bed.

It’s not the programming or the set itself that causes any harm. The trouble comes from nighttime light exposure that can throw your circadian rhythm out of whack. You could be at risk for the same problems if you don’t have a TV in your room but use a tablet, computer, or smartphone before bed, or sleep in a place that allows a lot of bright lights to shine in once the sun has set.

A new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that women who slept in a room with a television or light were more likely to gain at least 11 pounds over five years compared to those that slept in darkness. They were also 30-percent more likely to become obese.

The body’s circadian rhythm—its sleep-wake cycle—is determined by natural light and dark cycles. When you’re not sleeping in a dark space and instead exposing yourself to certain kinds of light too late in the evening, it messes with your body clock. Your natural body clock controls hormones—like melatonin and cortisol—metabolism, blood pressure, and more. A healthy circadian rhythm is important to overall health and is a pillar of a healthy lifestyle (along with diet and exercise).

When the sleep-wake cycle is disrupted, it can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, mental fogginess, and depression.

Taking sleep seriously can have a significant impact on your overall health. Thankfully, getting the screens out of your bedroom (or shutting them off earlier if you live in a studio apartment) and purchasing black-out blinds can be effective in providing the blackout conditions your body prefers. Sleep quality is essential to well-being, so taking these simple steps to improve sleep can go a long way towards a healthy life.

Devon Andre holds a bachelor’s of forensic science from the University of Windsor in Canada and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. This article was first published on Bel Marra Health.