If reading before bed is part of your nighttime routine, you may want to perk up: A new study has found a link between light-emitting e-readers and poor sleep quality. According to researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, reading light-emitting electronic devices (also known as LE-eBooks) before settling into bed appears to affect sleep, alertness, circadian rhythm, and overall health.
“The following morning, for example, participants felt sleepier after having read on the light-emitting device the night before,” says corresponding author Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, an associate neuroscientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
More specifically, it took longer for these participants to fall asleep. Additionally, they were less likely to feel tired in the evening and also spent less time in REM sleep. An uptick in alertness was also reported. What’s more is that these participants experienced a dip in melatonin secretion, which researchers say contributes to inducing sleepiness.
In simpler terms, LE-eBooks give off light that directly affects the body’s natural sleep pattern.
For the two-week study, 12 participants spent five consecutive nights reading LE-eBooks prior to bedtime via an iPad for four hours. They also spent another five nights reading a printed book.
For those of us who regularly read before bed, Chang suggests either doing so with a printed book or on a device that doesn’t emit blue light. Cutting off computer time, cell phone use and television prior to bedtime are also good ideas (especially with the prevalence of smartphone addiction).
“If you avoid the use of any of these light-emitting electronics a couple hours before bed, that would go a long way toward preparing yourself to go to sleep,” says Chang. “If you can charge your electronic devices outside of the [bedroom] that would also be good.”