Exposure to light has a direct impact on your circadian clock, which dictates when you feel sleepy and when you feel awake. The biggest influence light exposure can have is by impacting the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone produced in the brain.
Melatonin helps initiate sleep and so its levels in your brain begin increasing about two hours before your normal bed time. Being exposed to bright light, such as the kind produced by electronic devices, during these hours can inhibit the production of melatonin and prevent you from falling asleep properly.
A recent study suggests that using light-emitting electronics in the evening can suppress melatonin levels by around 50%. The cumulative effect of this is that melatonin production will begin later and later in the evening, meaning that you will feel begin feeling more alert in the evenings and more asleep in the mornings. In addition to this, using light-emitting electronics before bed decreases the quality of sleep, making you feel less rested the next day.
To determine whether or not electronics are affecting your sleep patterns you need to determine whether or not they are emitting light. The Kindle is one of the most popular e-readers and it emits no light at all. In terms of the effect on your sleep, reading a Kindle before bed has the same impact as reading an old-fashioned book.
While other e-readers certainly produce less light, they still produce a small amount, though it’s nothing compared to the brightness of regular tablets, computers, phones, and televisions.
Using your electronics in the evenings may seem innocent enough, but using these kinds of light-emitting devices at night is having a serious impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
The best way to combat this and ensure you get the best possible sleep is to stop using light-emitting devices two hours before you go to bed. Use a Kindle, read a book or a magazine, and use a lamp or dim your overhead lights to kick start your brain into producing melatonin so you can rest easy.
By Alex Bodnaruk
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