Taking your laptop, mobile phone or iPad to bed might seem to be an obvious candidate for keeping you up — you're playing with the device after all — but the real culprit is the glow of the screen.
Photo by sidewalk flying.
Years ago we shared some research with you indicating that people who used electronic devices before bed reported feeling less rested the next morning. The subjects in the study weren't just imagining that working late on their laptop in bed or spending time text messaging was make them more tired — they slept the same number of hours as the non-electronics users — they were actually experiencing the effects of exposure to bright and intense light late in the evening. The Los Angeles Times reports on the science behind it:
But staring at the screen before bed could leave you lying awake. That's because direct exposure to such abnormal light sources inhibits the body's secretion of melatonin, say several sleep experts. [...]
Light-emitting devices, including mobile phones and yep, the iPad, tell the brain to stay alert. Because users hold those devices so close to their face, staring directly into the light, the effect is amplified compared with, say, a TV across the room or a bedside lamp, said Frisca Yan-Go, director of the UCLA Sleep Disorders centre in Santa Monica.
What can you do? Switch to night-time activities that don't involve blasting your face with light right before you turn in. Reading a traditional paper book or an electronic book on non-light emitting electronic device like the Kindle is a much better alternative than reading a book on an iPad or laptop. Even better would be to institute a no-electronics policy surrounding the hours leading up to bed time to let your body move naturally and gradually towards sleep.
You can read more about the effect of electronics on sleep quality at the link below. Have a favourite sleep-related tip or trick to share? Let's hear about it in the comments.
Reading on iPad before Bed Can Affect Sleep Habits [Los Angeles Times]