Discover How New Research Links Nighttime Bright Light to Higher Diabetes Risk and Impacts on Blood Sugar Control

Suppose you’re living with Type 2 diabetes or know someone who is. In that case, you’re probably aware that the disease is related to both biological and lifestyle links, including family history, obesity, dietary choices, and not getting enough physical activity.

A new university study conducted in Australia suggests we might want to add a new factor to the risks for Type 2 diabetes – bright light exposure at night.

That’s right, findings published by the Australian government and featured in the United Press International suggest that personal exposure to bright light late at night that extends into the wee hours of the morning may increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

How The Study Worked

In the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 85,000 healthy individuals who had not been diagnosed with diabetes. These participants wore sensors on their wrists for one week, tracking their light exposure during the day and evening.

All in all, the researchers collected an astonishing 13 million hours of light sensor data. Then, the study’s participants were tracked for nine full years to see if they went on to develop Type 2 diabetes and to determine if light exposure was related to the onset of the disease.

The findings were incredibly revealing.

Light Late At Night May Contribute To Type 2 Diabetes

The study found a significantly higher risk of Type 2 diabetes among those who were exposed to light at night, even after taking into account other factors, such as weight, diet, and others.

Even more shocking was the fact that the intensity of the light seemed to make a difference, with higher levels of bright light at night increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes more.

In a nutshell, researchers found that exposure to light during the overnight hours, primarily between 12:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., is linked to a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

What does Light Have To Do With Diabetes?

Studies have already determined that sleep patterns have much to do with blood sugar levels and controlling them among those with diabetes. Sleep is essential for good diabetes health. Not getting enough sleep can impede insulin sensitivity and increase blood sugar levels, making it far more difficult to keep blood sugar levels in check. This new study is further proof of this relationship.

It’s not the light itself that is contributing to Type 2 diabetes. It is the simple fact that exposure to sunlight during these late hours tends to disrupt healthy sleep patterns, and when someone doesn’t sleep well, it makes them susceptible to blood sugar spikes.

Andrew Phillips, associate professor of medicine and public health at Flinders University in Australia and a senior researcher on the study, stated, “Light exposure at night can disrupt our circadian rhythms, leading to changes in insulin secretion and glucose metabolism. Changes in insulin secretion and glucose metabolism caused by disrupted circadian rhythms affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, which can, ultimately, lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.”

I Already Have Type 2 Diabetes

If you’re already living with diabetes, you might think that this study has no bearing on your situation. After all, they were researching how light exposure at night impacts the development of Type 2 diabetes, not the management.

However, the results were very telling for those with the disease.

Think about it. Researchers found that exposure to light, particularly intense or bright light, in the hours one should be fast asleep can disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythms. This disruption can impact insulin production and sensitivity, both vitally important factors for those with Type 2 diabetes.

Bottom line. Suppose you’re not getting enough good sleep. In that case, there’s a high probability that your blood sugar level may rise unexpectedly, making it more challenging to manage effectively over the long term.

So, just because you already have Type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean that light exposure at night won’t negatively impact you. It might even be more critical for those living with diabetes because your blood sugar highs can also increase the risk of other diabetes-related complications, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage), and kidney disease.

According to Dr. Phillips, the findings of this latest study suggest that reducing light exposure at night and maintaining a dark environment may be an easy and entirely cost-free way to prevent or delay the development of diabetes. There’s no reason the benefits of blood sugar control would not also hold for those living with Type 2 diabetes who are looking for ways to improve their diabetes management.



How does light lead to Type 2 diabetes?

Exposure to intense light in the late evening and early morning hours can disrupt a person’s circadian rhythm. This can impact how effectively the body processes blood sugar, ultimately contributing to a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

How can I improve my sleep patterns?

There are several ways to improve sleep patterns beyond managing light exposure. These include skipping daytime naps, avoiding caffeine near bedtime, exercising regularly, avoiding television/screen time while in bed, and keeping a sleep routine that has you going to bed near the same time each night.

How much sleep do I need?

Studies indicate that exposure to light at night can impede natural sleep patterns. As someone living with diabetes, getting the right amount of sleep is essential to blood sugar control. As a benchmark, try to get at least.

Do you have any additional insights on diabetes and sleep you’d like to share with our readers?  Please do so in the comment section below. Thanks, and stay diabetes healthy!


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