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posted: 5/14/2012 6:00 AM

Your health: Avoid computer before going to sleep

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Dim the night lights

Exposure to artificial light at night may not be good for your health.

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At night, the light throws the body's inner clock -- the circadian rhythm -- out of sync, which in turn can affect your sleep. The combination of poor sleep and exposure to artificial light may contribute to a number of health problems, according to the Harvard Health Letter.

Studies have linked working the night shift and getting exposed to light at night to several types of cancer (including breast and prostate cancer), diabetes, heart disease and obesity. It's not exactly clear why nighttime light exposure seems to be problematic. It could be because exposure to light at night curbs the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms.

Here are some suggestions to consider.

• Use dim red lights for nightlights. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.

• Avoid looking at brightly lit screens such as computers beginning two to three hours before bed.

• If you work a night shift or use a lot of electronic devices at night, consider wearing blue wavelength-blocking glasses.

• Expose yourself to lots of bright light during the day, which will boost your ability to sleep at night, as well as your mood and alertness during daylight.

Weighing in

Here are a few facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding obesity in America.

Over the past decade, obesity rates stayed about the same in women, while men experienced a small rise.

About 17 percent of the nation's children and teens were obese in 2009 and 2010, the latest available data. That's about the same as at the beginning of the decade, but there are continued small increases in boys, especially African-American boys.

People ages 45 to 64 are most likely to be obese. according to researchers.

More than 78 million U.S. adults are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more. BMI is a measure of weight for height. Someone who's 5-feet-5 would be termed obese at 180 pounds, and severely obese with a BMI of 40 -- 240 pounds.

New forecasts suggest 32 million more people could be obese in 2030.

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