A new study is just the latest in a growing mound of evidence that shows using electronic devices before bed is bad for your sleep. This time, the research focused on the use of electronic books, or e-books.
Reading a book before bed is a very popular activity. It’s relaxing and can distract your mind from the worries of the day or the next day. More and more, Americans are turning to the convenience of e-books that are read on a tablet or an e-reader. The problem is, however, that the screens on which they’re reading are emitting “blue light”, which tells the brain to wake up in the morning.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston wanted to find out just how bad e-reading is for your sleep. In a small study, they had one group read a traditional paper book before bed, and another group read the same book on an iPad.
The subjects reading from screens took longer to fall asleep. Their circadian rhythms were also delayed, and the sleep hormone melatonin, which naturally rises in the hours before bedtime, was suppressed. Those who read on a screen were also sleepier and less alert the next day than those who read a printed book, even if they slept the same number of hours.
The researchers caution that since this was a small study, it’s hard to draw definitive results. However, when this study is stacked on top of a number of others conducted on the topic of screens before bed, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that technology should be limited before bed. Putting the screens aside an hour or so before bedtime may make a world of difference in your sleep, and therefore your health. If you want to read before bed, try the old school paper book, or an e-reader without a back-light.