Reading On A Screen Before Bed May Lead to Health Problems

December 24, 2014

9:00 pm

You're better off reading an actual printed book in bed and ditching all electronic monitors. That's because reading from an iPad or phone before bed not only makes it harder to fall asleep, but also impacts how sleepy or alert you are the next day.

According to new research from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that reading on a screen before sleep can be detrimental. These findings could impact anyone who uses an eReader, laptop, smartphone, or certain TVs before bed.

“We know from previous work that light from screens in the evening alters sleepiness and alertness, and suppresses melatonin levels,” Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, an associate neuroscientist in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders who was a co-author on the study, told The Huffington Post via email. “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.”

The study ran for two weeks and included 12 participants who read on an iPad for four hours before bed for five days straight, a process that was repeated with printed books. For some, the order was reversed: They started with printed books and moved to iPads. iPad readers took longer to fall asleep, felt less sleepy at night and had shorter REM sleep compared to the book readers, researchers found. The iPad readers also secreted less melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep.

We understand that this research has some shortcomings that we have issues with, including the small number of participants. But other research support or have similar conclusions, that using  such devices before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, and reduces alertness the following morning.

Chang said in the article that sleep deficiency has been linked to other health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Chronic suppression of melatonin has also been associated with increased risk of certain cancers, she said.

Looks like you might want to get your dusty books off the shelves again.


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Camila has been heavily active in South Florida’s tech startup community, where she is a co-host of a local radio show called pFunkcast. Camila previously worked at Greenpeace International and the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in various communication roles. A proud Brazilian who spent most of he life in Peru, she is passionate about traveling and documentaries.