E-books at night: bad for your health, study suggests

E-books at night: bad for your health, study suggests

If we listened to all these endless health warnings, we’d only ever eat fruit and veg and drink mineral water; we’d sleep for at least seven hours a night and never take naps; we’d exercise regularly – but not too much, because even exercise wants to KILL YOU.

To be fair, this study does seem pretty spot-on when it says staring at your smartphone, tablet and/or e-reader before bed will mess you up. I’m sure you’ll join me when I say: Uh oh.

As reported on BBC News, a Harvard Medical School study shoved twelve people in a “sleep laboratory” for two weeks in order to study the effects of reading in bed at night.

In particular, the study aimed to look at the effects of reading paper-based books vs. e-books, with the iPad representing the “blue light” family of smartphones, tablets and backlit e-readers.

Ultimately, reading e-books was proven to slow production of the sleep hormone melatonin, meaning the candidates took longer to get to sleep, had less deep sleep, and showed more signs of tiredness in the morning.

Of course, logically it’s not just e-books that are to blame here. Having your face glued to Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Angry Birds - anything on a “blue light” device - is likely to have the same impact.

Not too bothered? It’s not just about feeling knackered in the morning either; there are serious health implications here.

"Sleep deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes, and cancer,” mourns lead researcher Prof Charles "Xavier" Czeisler.

"Thus, the melatonin suppression that we saw in this study among participants when they were reading from the light-emitting e-reader concerns us."

Reading a book or an old-school Kindle (or similar) by a beside lamp is cool, incidentally, since normal light bulbs don't emit that dastardly "blue light".

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4 comments

JanSt / MOD  Dec. 23, 2014 at 16:35

Good for Big Pharma, isn't it?
Interestingly, Melatonin screwedness has been linked to autism and Asperger's... And what diagnoses have gone up up up? Exactly.

satchef1  Dec. 23, 2014 at 20:39

Light-emitting eReaders, not eReaders in general. That's the point - blue light in the evenings is bad. That's any blue light emitting device - smartphones, TVs, laptops. An illuminated eReader that uses warm light would be perfectly fine, as is a non-illuminated eReader used in a room lit with warm light.

lcurdie / MOD  Dec. 23, 2014 at 21:18

Light-emitting eReaders, not eReaders in general. That's the point - blue light in the evenings is bad. That's any blue light emitting device - smartphones, TVs, laptops. An illuminated eReader that uses warm light would be perfectly fine, as is a non-illuminated eReader used in a room lit with warm light.
Right enough, sir, I didn't make that clear, did I?

JanSt / MOD  Dec. 23, 2014 at 21:20

The problem with this is: WHAT IS NORMAL?
We have streets illuminated 24/7, malls and supermarkets and and and - add the round the clock bombardment with media ... add the wrong food and drink at practically all times.
Stimulants, dairy products that contain enough casein to knock out a WWII platoon...but hey - lets add a coffee....
This study is interesting, for sure - but it's not news, and it won't change any behaviour.
Turn off the iBooks app, turn on the telly instead... BOOM - same sh*t, different source.
And whoa - if your life is the desk, the car seat, the sofa, the bed, the toilet seat, the car seat the office desk... THEN that eReader type will not make any difference whatsoever. If you had proper food and exercise - useful, REAL exercise -, you will sleep. An iPad or Kobo Glo will NOT keep you awake. And grant whores will not dream up the latest variation of an old study. Boom

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