For decades we’ve been told that reading before bed is a good way to calm the mind and relax the eyes, helping us to eventually roll over and fall asleep. But now, with the proliferation of iPads and e-readers, that advice may no longer apply. In fact, that advice might be contributing to widespread insomnia.
According to a recent study reported by the National Academy of Sciences, the subjects who read before bed on their iPad for four hours a night took longer to fall asleep, spent less time in REM, and generally felt like crap the following morning (our words, not theirs).
The science behind this study hypothesizes that the blue light from the iPad inhibits the body’s ability to release melatonin, which is the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Other studies have linked a decrease in melatonin release to an increase in breast, colon and prostate cancers.
Before anyone freaks out and rushes to their local thrift store to purchase whatever paperbacks are available, it is important to note that the study did not include other electronic readers, such as the Kindle or Nook devices, so it is unclear as to whether or not these should also be lumped into the same ‘dangerous’ category as the iPad (which was cranked up to full brightness).
It’s safe to say that more studies must be done in order to fully understand the effects that e-readers have on the body’s ability to release melatonin. In the meantime, if you’re someone who reads on one of these devices before bed, and you notice that you have trouble falling asleep, see if simply dimming the light will solve your problem.
Even better still, are apps that are designed to change your screen color based on the time of the day, reducing the amount of blue light as night draws nearer. F.lux is an app available for Windows and Mac computers, as well as for iPhones and iPads. Twilight is a similar app for Android users.
Featured photo courtesy of: Brandord Seven
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