Let’s face it: Most of us can’t help but check our phones, read our tablets or watch TV before sleeping, even though studies have shown that staring at electronic screens has a negative impact on our sleep. However, considering all the late night hours we spend working, studying and partying, who cares about good sleep?
Well, according to new research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, the consequences of reading from an iPad or iPhone before bedtime go beyond even sleep quality. Not only does such pre-bedtime activity make it harder to fall asleep, it also impacts alertness the next day, and worst of all, can also cause serious health issues.
In the two-week study, 12 participants were asked to read on an iPad for four hours before bed for five days straight. The participants were then asked to do the same task, only this time with physical books. Some people also did the reverse — they started with physical books and then moved onto iPads. In the end, the iPad readers had lower quality sleep, secreted less melatonin (a hormone that helps regulate our circadian rhythm), stayed up later and felt more tired the next day
Anne-Marie Chang, co-author of the study, tells the Huffington Post:
“We know from previous work that light from screens in the evening alters sleepiness and alertness, and suppresses melatonin levels…This study shows comprehensive results of a direct comparison between reading with a light-emitting device and reading a printed book and the consequences on sleep.”
Chang also said that consistently poor sleep is linked to health problems such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She also said that staring at artificial light is said to suppress melatonin. The study emphasizes that chronic suppression of melatonin via artificial light is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer
Chang recommends the following:
“The best recommendation (although not the most popular) would be to avoid use of light-emitting screens before bedtime…For those who must use computers or other light-emitting devices in the evening, software or other technology that filters out the blue light may help.”
Some of these alternatives include apps that helps block blue light, purchasing a filter you can put in front of your iOS device, or the software program Flux, if you’re on a desktop.
“Since – let’s face it – you are still going to use your phone after the sun goes down, your best bet is to hack the problem. That means doing what I do… wear glasses that block blue light and run software on your device that lowers the amount of brightness and blue light. Put tape over blue LEDs in your bedroom. And who knows, maybe a little melatonin is not a bad thing if you’ve been staring at a bright TV before bed.”