Reading E-Books at Bedtime Can Pose Health Risks, Say Harvard Medical School Researchers
You might want to rethink bringing your e-reader to bed with you, because a new study shows that it may cause health problems. And at the very least, it will cause a much tougher morning than you would probably like. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that if you keep the backlight on on your device, reading e-books at night on can cause trouble sleeping and affect alertness in the morning, leading to other health problems. Printed books or e-readers without the backlight on did not cause these issues.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School's sleep medicine department studied 12 young adults with no health issues over a period of two weeks. The participants in the study would either read a printed book or an e-book on an iPad, for four hours before going to bed. (Must have been a good book!) The latter young adults took an average of 10 minutes longer to fall asleep then those reading a printed book.
Think that doesn't add up to a big deal? Well, they also reported being less tired an hour before bed, had suppressed levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, had less rapid eye movement (REM), and took hours longer to fully awaken and receive the same level of alertness of their print-book-reading counterparts.
So, OK, if we read our iPads or other light-emitting devices before bed, we'll have a groggy morning. We already know that about bingeing on Orange is the New Black on Netflix or Broad City on TV before bed. We're young, we can deal — right? Well, the researchers are quick to point out that this won't all be solved with an extra cup of coffee in the morning.
The results are concerning, researchers say, because the chronic suppression of melatonin, which reading on lit devices before bed causes, has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, advanced prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
This point will go to fans of the printed word versus digital devices.The newer e-readers are morphing more into full, tablet-like devices instead of the original Kindle, which did not have a back light and was intended to mimic the look of a book page. But there still are options that have the option to turn on or off the backlight, and the study reminds us that it is best to keep it off close to bedtime.
However, if you want to relax before bed with the latest major book release, it's probably best if you turn to your good, old-fashioned paperback than your hot new device.
Image: simplystardust/Flick; Giphy