Packing On the Pounds? The Blue Light From Your Phone Could Be to Blame

While you're binge-watching 'Game of Thrones,' the glare from the screen might be making you hungrier.

(Photo: Steve Prezant/Getty Images)

Jun 6, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Need another reason to get your burgeoning tech addiction in check? The blue light emitted by your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop could be causing you to run to the fridge for yet another snack, especially if you’re using the devices at night.

That’s the key finding from a Northwestern University study published in the journal Sleep and presented at the 28th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. The researchers have found a connection between the glare from our ubiquitous electronic devices and how hungry people feel.

"A single three-hour exposure to blue-enriched light in the evening acutely impacted hunger and glucose metabolism," said study coauthor Ivy Cheung in a statement. "These results are important because they suggest that manipulating environmental light exposure for humans may represent a novel approach of influencing food intake patterns and metabolism."

The researchers stuck 10 adults with no sleep or eating disorders into individual “bedrooms” with dim lighting for two days and monitored how hungry they felt during activities (like reading) and before and after they ate. Then, for the next two days, the researchers flooded the rooms with blue-enriched light similar to that emitted from electronic devices. The study’s participants said they were hungrier after being exposed to the blue light. Two hours after eating, they felt hungrier than they had on the dim light exposure days.

So does this mean no more lounging in bed, binge-watching Game of Thrones on your smartphone or tablet and contemplating how powerful the show’s women are? Maybe not. The study size is relatively small. But given that previous research has shown a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain, it’s probably better to watch what you eat and how much you exercise, as well as limit your exposure to screen time.