NEWYORK – Basking in the blue glow of iPads, smartphones and other electronic devices before bedtime could be messing up our sleep patterns.
A growing body of evidence has suggested what many people have experienced firsthand that the pervasive glow of electronic gadgets can hinder a good night’s sleep.
Researchers behind study, which was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health, set out to decipher what changes in the body cause those disruptions.
During a two-week inpatient experiment involving a dozen adults, some participants were asked to read on an iPad for four hours each night before bedtime, for five consecutive nights. Others read printed books in dim light. After a week, the groups switched.
Researchers found that participants using iPads displayed reduced levels of melatonin, a hormone that typically increases in the evening and helps induce sleepiness. They took longer to fall asleep, and spent less time in restorative REM, or rapid-eye movement, sleep.
In addition, the iPad readers reported being sleepier and less alert the following morning, even after eight hours of sleep. They also displayed delayed circadian rhythms.
“There’s a lot of skepticism out there; a lot of people think this is psychological,” said Charles Czeisler, director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “But what we showed is that reading from light-emitting, e-reader devices has profound biological effects.”
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