By Paddy Kamen, Publisher, BetterBrainBetterLife
Did you receive an e-reader as a gift this year? If so, lucky you: they are excellent travel companions and can make the reading experience better (I like the Kindle notes and highlights features and use an iPad also). However, reading from a light-emitting (LE) e-reading device before bed can seriously disrupt your sleep, according to research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, MA.
The news release from BWH explains the research process:
"During the two-week inpatient study, twelve participants read LE-e-Books on an iPad for four hours before bedtime each night for five consecutive nights. This was repeated with printed books. The order was randomized with some reading the iPad first and others reading the printed book first. Participants reading on the iPad took longer to fall asleep, were less sleepy in the evening, and spent less time in REM sleep. The iPad readers had reduced secretion of melatonin, a hormone which normally rises in the evening and plays a role in inducing sleepiness. Additionally, iPad readers had a delayed circadian rhythm, indicated by melatonin levels, of more than an hour. Participants who read from the iPad were less sleepy before bedtime, but sleepier and less alert the following morning after eight hours of sleep. Although iPads were used in this study, BWH researchers also measured other eReaders, laptops, cell phones, LED monitors, and other electronic devices, all emitting blue light.”
Not only are you at higher risk for many cancers when your melatonin production is decreased, but the miracle that is your brain will not function well at all without the healing benefits of sleep. At our house, we try to stick with a ‘no-electronic devices at least 90 minutes before bedtime’ rule. It’s a challenge to stay on track because our laptops have become virtually indispensable for both paid and creative work, as well as for journaling, entertainment and so on. In the past, I would often pick up my laptop to journal in the night when sleep eluded me. I have now seen the light (not blue light but the truly illuminating metaphorical kind) and instead of writing I use the night hours for meditation, which as we know confers numerous benefits on my brain, including increased grey matter.
If you did receive an e-reader as a gift this holiday season, or otherwise have one in your possession, may I recommend that you download The Emotional Life of Your Brain, by Richard Davidson and Sharon Begley? I am reading it right now – the hard copy version – and find it to be a stimulating, and practical book about emotions and the brain, and living a more fulfilling life.
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