Reading is one of the top favorite bedtime activities. It is relaxing, can be done laying down, and often puts people to sleep. If you are one of the few who still reads from a physical book made of paper, this activity is a great choice for bedtime. However, if you have joined the masses in the e-reader craze, you may be hindering the quality and quantity of sleep you are getting.
How Electronic Blue Light Affects Sleep
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have studied the effects of the short wavelength enriched light that electronic devices produce, called blue light, on the body’s biological rhythms. Circadian rhythms in the body are highly tied with light. Our bodies learn that when it gets dark outside, we sleep. The type of light that electronic devices emit disrupt our internal clocks and trick them into thinking it is daytime. Studies show that the circadian rhythm can be delayed up to an hour when using blue light emitting devices. In addition to disrupting circadian rhythms, e-readers have also been linked to the following:
- Reduced evening sleepiness
- Reduced melatonin secretion
- Reduced next morning alertness
- Increased length of time to fall asleep
- Reduced time in REM sleep
- Increased alertness before bed
Quality of sleep impacts overall health and wellness. The chronic suppression of melatonin, which is a hormone which has a rising level in the evening to aid sleep, is linked to breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer.
Are You Using An E-Reader?
E-readers are any electronic device that emits light. These include iPads, laptops, cell phones, LED monitors, and any other device you can read on that is not a paper book. Even if you are not reading, but instead playing games, checking email, surfing the internet, or instant messaging on these devices, you could still be experiencing the negative effects of using an e-reader before bed.
Children and adolescents are among the top users of electronic devices before bed, and the quality of their sleep is decreasing over time. It is especially important for growing minds to get quality sleep, and enough of it. We recommend keeping these devices out of the bedroom altogether, and choosing a less bright alternative for bedtime, such as reading a physical, paper book. The good news for book lovers is that subjects who read from paper books before bed in the study did not experience any negative sleep effects like those who read from e-readers. Our advice is to limit e-reader use to daytime hours and in other rooms in your house, and at night in bed, stick to paper books.