Keep the e-reader out of the bedroom

Keep the e-reader out of the bedroom

If you’re having trouble falling asleep at bedtime, you may want to rethink your choice of reading material.

According to a recently released study, those who eschew the increasingly popular tablets and e-readers and opt for traditional paper books for their nighttime reading fall asleep faster and feel more alert in the morning.

The study, published in PNAS, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports the use of light-emitting electronic devices, such as tablets, e-readers and laptops, before bedtime had a harder time falling asleep. They also found that e-readers caused changes in the body’s circadian rhythms, our body’s clock that regulates sleep and wakefulness, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, our deepest, most restful sleep state.

“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” says Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, co-author of the study. “Participants reading an LE-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.”

The study, conducted at Brigham Women’s Hospital, followed 12 healthy adults over the course of two weeks. For the study period, the some participants were provided a tablet to read an e-book prior to their bedtime, while others were given printed books and low lighting for their bedtime reading. The researchers reportedly swapped the reading sources randomly, measuring the time to fall asleep, sleep quality and morning alertness.

According to the results, the subjects reading electronically had a reduced secretion of melatonin, a hormone that normally induces sleepiness. The researchers found they experienced delay in their circadian rhythm, indicated by the decreased melatonin levels, of more than an hour. They were less sleepy before bedtime and less alert the following morning after a full eight hours of sleep.

“With more and more people choosing the ease of e-readers before bed, this is something that definitely needs to be investigated further,” says Dr. Karyn Karlin, neurologist with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “With poor sleep linked to health issues like anxiety and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, doing everything we can to improve sleep hygiene will have important health consequences for our society.”

Dr. Karlin says other important tips to improve your sleep include:

  • Sticking to consistent bed and wake times, even on the weekends when many of us are tempted to sleep in
  • Avoiding working out in the hours before bedtime
  • Keeping the TV out of the bedroom
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and nicotine at least four hours before bedtime
  • Maintaining a cool, dark bedroom

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  1. Is only 12 people over 2 weeks a valid study? With such a small sample, I’m inclined to ignore the finding.

  2. I rarely have trouble falling asleep, but I could see where this might be an issue for some people…

  3. Lisa Parro

    Similar studies have reached the same conclusion. I’ve shared this with my husband many times to no avail, but his iPhone light keeps me awake, too.

  4. Ernst Lamothe Jr. December 30, 2014 at 1:22 pm · Reply

    Well Lisa, my wife also loves her cell phone and it keeps me up at night too. But I guess it is better than the tablet light.

  5. There are e-readers that are not lit. I wonder if these are similar to books. They are much easier on the eyes.

  6. I think what they are saying is true, at least for me. If I read a regular book I can fall asleep right away, If I am using my Kindle I can be awake 1/2 the night and still not be able to fall asleep. And when I do fall asleep it is not a good sleep. I avoid using my Kindle now.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.