LIGHT SLEEP: The body’s natural circadian rhythms are interrupted by the short-wavelength blue light of electronic devices.
LIGHT SLEEP: The body’s natural circadian rhythms are interrupted by the short-wavelength blue light of electronic devices. Contributed

Try turning off your gadgets for a good night's sleep

THE rise of light-emitting devices is stopping people from getting a good night's sleep, a study has found.

The use of electronic devices in the hours before bedtime can adversely impact overall health, alertness, and the circadian clock which synchronises the daily rhythm of sleep to external environmental time cues, according to researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital who compared the biological effects of reading an LE-eBook compared to a printed book.

"We found the body's natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices," Anne-Marie Chang, PhD, corresponding author, and associate neuroscientist in the hospital's Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders said.

"Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book."

Some Toowoomba residents said the findings were not surprising.

Kylie Grainger said she was once commended by a professional for not having a TV in her bedroom.

"The professional said that the bedroom was meant to be a quiet haven to let the body rest and sleep," she said.

John Duffy said he agreed with the findings.

"Utilising a tablet interferes with my sleep pattern," he said.

Deborah Fisher disagreed, saying she read on her phone every night and always slept like a log for eight hours or more.

Previous research has shown that blue light suppresses melatonin, impacts the circadian clock and increase alertness, but little was known about the effects of this popular technology on sleep.

The use of light emitting devices immediately before bedtime is a concern because of the extremely powerful effect that light has on the body's natural sleep/wake pattern, and may thereby play a role in perpetuating sleep deficiency.

Chief of the hospital's Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders Charles Czeisler said, "In the past 50 years, there has been a decline in average sleep duration and quality.

"Since more people are choosing electronic devices for reading, communication and entertainment, particularly children and adolescents who already experience significant sleep loss, epidemiological research evaluating the long-term consequences of these devices on health and safety are needed."


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