Why You Should Put Down That Tablet Or Phone If You Want Better Sleep | Healthcare and Technology news | Scoop.it

If your plans for the New Year include figuring out how to work a little more better-quality sleep into your schedule, here’s one word to remember: Blue. Using electronic devices that emit blue light before bedtime can disturb sleep patterns and deprive you of those precious ZZZZZs your brain and body needs.

Devices that emit blue light include e-readers, tablets, laptops, smart phones and several types of flat screen televisions. The sleep-disturbing effects of blue light—also known as short-wavelength enriched light– have been suspected for quite some time, and new research adds to the scientific evidence counseling us to put down our gadgets well before we hit the pillow.

Researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston tested the effects of reading an IPad versus reading a paper book before bedtime. Participants used the IPad or book for four hours before bedtime for five consecutive nights. People who read the IPad felt less tired before trying to sleep, spent less time in REM sleep, and produced less of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

According to lead study author, Dr. Anne-Marie Chang: “We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light … Participants reading an eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.”

Since more of us are using blue-light emitting devices in the evening, it seems we’re unwittingly short-circuiting our sleep needs despite best intentions.

If you really want to read at night, and aren’t into using old school books, the researchers say that the original e-readers (such as the first generation Kindle readers) are probably fine for the purpose because they do not emit blue light. But any tablet (IPad or other) emits plenty of blue and is liable to disrupt sleep.

If you’re wondering whether you can supplement with melatonin in pill or capsule form to combat sleep deprivation, there’s plenty of evidence that doing so works – but be careful. As with any hormone naturally produced in your body, supplementing too often can disrupt natural production and trigger additional problems. A better policy is to address the issues that are causing sleep deprivation (like using gadgets before bedtime) instead of trying to patch the problem with a pseudo-solution that can eventually become another sort of problem.