“Renew You” Challenge – Let’s start this week off right! This weekly challenge (I mean, opportunity!) can help set you off on the right foot for bringing health to this week and the many to follow. You could even add it to your calendar. Join us!

A recent study from the National Academy of Sciences found evidence that animals sleeping with a dim light increased weight gain 50 percent more than if they slept in darkness. They found that exposure to dim light during sleep resulted in a different eating schedule that led to weight gain.

Sleeping in complete darkness is required for optimal sleep because dark triggers the release of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that helps regulate the circadian rhythm (sleep cycle). Light exposure at night—even a dim one like street light coming through the window, or a computer light—can interfere with melatonin release, leading to insomnia.

Now researchers think light exposure during sleep could also disturb eating habits, ultimately leading to weight gain. In April one of my Renew You Challenges was to darken your room to improve sleep, and in July I blogged about how skipping out on sleep can make you fat. I want to pose that challenge again because adequate sleep is so important.

So if you didn’t take the challenge back in April, or if you’re new to the blog, pay attention to your sleeping environment. Shut off all lights, and get some thick curtains if outside lights are shining in. Is a light coming through under your door? Find it and turn it off. (Better yet, you’re conserving energy too!) This will help you sleep better, and it may also help you avoid unwanted pounds.