Printed Books vs E-Readers How Rested Are You?

As I write this post before the end of the year, I am sure many people got an “i” something or an electronic item this holiday season.

I am not suggesting sending them back, instead, use them wisely and not before bedtime.

Personally, I have always had trouble falling asleep with lights, even the most innocent ones like the fire detector or the alarm clock.

There was a research paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America called “Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness.” A. M. Changa, D. Aeschbach, J. F. Duffy, and C. A. Czeisler wrote this paper, and two newspapers mentioned it: the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, almost on the same day!

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In a previous career, I worked as a Dark Sky Ranger, and read the research on light effecting your sleep. This research takes a different approach. They studied 12 adults during a two-week period who read a paper book or a book on an e-reader. These adults read either type of book for four hours before going to bed.

Each person in the test had to read leisure books for four hours on five consecutive nights. The researchers had the same ambient (dim) light for the printed and the electronic books. They checked to see how long it took for the adults to fall asleep, how deeply they were asleep, and how wakeful they were in the morning.

The results were very startling. It took most of the subjects longer to fall asleep, they did not have a deep (REM) sleep, and they were tired in the morning. It took them between 10 to 20 minutes to come to wakefulness when they had read an e-reader the night before compared to the printed book.

They reasoned the four hours of being on an electronic device before bedtime as a low average of what youth and young adults do for school and social reasons. Most teenagers have between five and 7.5 hours of homework, which usually is on an electronic device. 

Consider your circadian clock, the one that helps you figure out when to go to bed and when to wake up, being off-balance and throws your whole day out of whack.

From the paper:
The results of this study are of particular concern, given recent evidence linking chronic suppression of melatonin secretion by nocturnal light exposure with the increased risk of breast, colorectal, and advanced prostate cancer associated with night-shift work.”

Basically the more light, the less melatonin and therefore less deep sleep to stay healthy.

When you think of the average amount of time you are on an electronic device, whether it is a laptop, smart phone, iPad/iPod, TV, gaming device, and e-readers, how close it is to bedtime, and how wakeful you are the next morning, you can see why the study was important.

Maybe not being on any device before going to bed would be a good idea, possibly a good New Year Resolution.

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