- E-Books Negatively Affect Sleep Patterns
- March 12, 2015 | Author: Stephen J. Burg
- Law Firm: Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine, P.C. - Englewood Office
- The number of people using electronic reading devices has dramatically increased in recent years, but now research showed these e-readers may be bad for consumer health.
Following last year's holiday season, Pew Research Center found 42 percent of American adults own a tablet, like an iPad, and 24 percent own an e-book like a Kindle or Nook. These numbers are likely to rise following this gift-giving season.
However, while people of all ages in the U.S. are getting attached to their mobile devices and electronic books, researchers found the light emitted from such devices can negatively impact people's sleep patterns, HealthDay reported.
Researchers from Harvard studied the sleep patterns of people who read an iPad or other electronic reading device before bed. For 10 nights in a row, 12 young adults read for four hours before going to sleep. Half of the participants read e-books and the other half read printed books. After the first five nights, the participants switched reading methods and continued the study for another five consecutive nights using the different reading method.
The researchers found the people who read one of these devices before bed reported not feeling as sleepy and taking longer to fall asleep compared to people who read a print book. The e-book-reading participants took about 10 minutes longer to fall asleep than the other readers.
The people who read e-books also found it harder to wake up the next morning, even if they slept the same duration as people who read print books. The researchers discovered those who read e-books had less REM sleep throughout the night.
Why do e-books affect sleep?
The researchers believe the blue light emitted from e-books and other electronic devices suppresses melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone that promotes sleep. Blood tests uncovered the participants reading e-books delayed their nightly melatonin production by more than an hour and a half because the blue light from the devices made the brain think the sun was still up, according to HealthDay.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, melatonin is produced in the pineal gland, which is inactive during the day. When the environment becomes dark, the gland is activated and begins to produce melatonin. This is usually around 9 p.m. and lasts 12 hours. Melatonin levels during the day are very small, while they are higher and steady throughout the night.
What should consumers do?
The researchers concluded people who like to read before bed should use print books and save e-books for during the day.
"There could be serious effects if you use these devices night after night," Kristen Knutson, assistant professor of sleep medicine at the University of Chicago, who was not part of the study, said, according to HealthDay. "People need to be more mindful. Think about when you're using them. You could think of electronics as similar to junk food. Eating junk food is fine from time to time, but you have to do it in moderation."