Why Avoiding Light After Sundown Burns Fat

Light and weight loss

Can staying in the dark when the sun goes down help you lose weight? Researchers think so. Avoiding light at night not only cuts your electric bill, but also turns your excess fat into actively burning fat.

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Research Finds Melatonin Promotes Weight Loss

Many health enthusiasts are familiar with melatonin for its ability to promote a good night's sleep, but a new study into the hormone has revealed that it can also help you shed that extra weight.

What is melatonin and how does it impact your body? Melatonin is a hormone that's produced by the pineal gland in your brain. Melatonin has a primary role in regulating your body's internal clock, and your exposure to light significantly affects your melatonin levels.

Like many hormones, melatonin levels change over time. When you're middle-aged and older you may struggle to produce enough melatonin. This is one factor that accounts for the chronic sleeplessness that many middle-aged and elderly individuals experience.

Researchers are now finding that melatonin affects many other physical processes and health conditions, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), chronic headaches, eczema, GERD -- and yes, weight loss.

How Is Melatonin Linked to Weight Loss?

Research revealing melatonin's link to weight loss was announced in a November 2013 edition of The Journal of Pineal Research. Researchers found that higher melatonin levels in rats were linked to higher levels of beneficial types of body fat. These special fat types are now linked to weight loss.

Sure, it may sound counter-intuitive that one type of fat could cause your body to burn another type of fat. But multiple studies have apparently revealed a definitive connection between weight loss and the amounts of brown fat and beige fat.

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The researchers discovered that these beneficial fats increased when the rats received a six-week course of melatonin supplements. This was true for rats that were considered normal weight and it was true for the obese rats with type 2 diabetes. The rats that got the melatonin supplements experienced an increased sensitivity to thermogenic processes. In layman's terms, the rats burned more fat when their body temperature rose in response to activities like exercise. Another example of a thermogenic process would be increasing your body temperature by shivering in cold temperatures.

The rats also enjoyed some other benefits, like lower blood pressure and slower weight gain (in cases where the rats ate more calories than they expended). The obese rats with type 2 diabetes also saw improvement in their blood sugars. (See how red wine can convert your beige fat into brown fat!)

Rats and humans are quite different, so additional research is clearly necessary. But virtually all agree that healthy melatonin levels are a key component of your good health.

Melatonin's connection to a good night's sleep also impacts your weight loss efforts in another way. A lack of rest has a negative impact on your body's metabolic rate, especially if you're sleepless on a chronic basis. Numerous studies have established a clear and solid link between sleep deprivation (and the stress that often accompanies it) and weight gain.

How to Naturally Increase Your Melatonin Levels

If you're ready to get a better night's sleep and want to shed extra pounds in the process, consider increasing your melatonin levels using a few different strategies. This hormone can be upped by taking melatonin supplements, but many are hesitant to take supplements since it's possible to take too much melatonin, resulting in major disruption to your circadian rhythms (the fancy term for your body clock and sleep cycle.)

Fortunately, you do have some more natural options for boosting this essential hormone. Your body naturally halts melatonin production during the daylight hours. When darkness falls melatonin production resumes. So strategic light exposure has been found to be an extremely effective approach for regulating melatonin.

This strategy entails getting lots of daylight exposure during the daytime hours (or, in the winter, simulating that daylight exposure using special full-spectrum lighting). At night, you should make an effort to avoid daylight-like light wavelengths from sources like computers, televisions, tablets and mobile devices. Notably, some devices even have a “night mode” that changes the screen color to a range that's less stimulating.

Regular exercise is key too, especially if you can get some more light exposure by exercising outside. But just like light exposure, exercising before bed can leave you struggling to get to sleep. So avoid any nighttime jogs within three hours of your bedtime.

There are various foods to increase melatonin too, including tomatoes, walnuts, sunflower seeds and almonds. So eat up, hit the gym, catch some rays and then, get some sleep. You won't just feel great, but you'll look great too as you start shedding those pounds more effectively!

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