Cathing up on television shows and reading an ebook may seem like relaxing ways to end the day; however, tablets may actually be contributing to poor sleep quality. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital conducted a study to examine the effects of reading a light-emitting device on sleep quality. Participants read ebooks on their iPads for four hours before bedtime every night for five nights and then read printed books for the same amount of time. They found that when reading ebooks, participants took longer to fall asleep, experienced reduced and delayed timing of REM sleep, had reduced morning alertness, and had reduced melatonin secretion.
Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps control the sleep wake cycle. Melatonin is typically highest in the evening and through the night and then drops upon awakening. The amount of light that we are exposed to impacts melatonin production, which explains why reading a light-emitting device could contribute to lower levels of production.
If you suffer from insomnia or other sleep issues, you may want to consider going back to old fashioned paper books at night. Engaging in a mindfulness exercise or progressive muscle relaxation are other ways that have been shown to improve sleep.