Digital E-Readers and Sleep Patterns
From the time that printed books became available to the masses and not just a status symbol for the wealthy, people have been reading books before bedtime. The source of light when this habit was formed was a candle, and the medium by which books were written was paper and ink. Today there are a multitude of options whereby to obtain your reading material. The trending style of today comes in the form of an e-book, and e-reader. This electronic device is convenient but may come at a cost. A study from Harvard Medical (www.bbc.com/news/health-30574260) states “If you curl up under the duvet at bedtime to read then you are damaging your sleep and maybe your health”.
The human body has an internal clock (also known as your circadian rhythm) that has developed through millions of years of evolution. It tells our bodies to rest when the sun goes down and become active when the sun is out. Light regulates our sleep patterns by the production of a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. Melatonin levels decrease with exposure to light and increase in the dark. The light emitted from smartphones, e-readers and tablets shines at the same spectrum (around 460 to 480 nanometers) as the naturally occurring blue light spectrum produced by the sun that reduces the melatonin levels needed for a sound REM sleep (rapid eye movement). Our bodies naturally begin production of melatonin as the sun goes down. When we get into bed then turn on an electronic device, our eyes do not filter out the blue light, so we trick our bodies into thinking it is daytime. Melatonin production is slowed, and natural sleep patterns are disrupted.
The human body is in a constant state of cell replenish and replacement. The majority of healthy cell replacement is accomplished while we sleep. If adequate sleep is not obtained on a regular basis then we suffer from a multitude of degenerative diseases including, but not limited to arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, poor brain function, loss of alertness, increased anger, and decreased cell production. Lack of sleep also increases stress levels which can only exacerbate all of the conditions previously mentioned, thereby compounding the effects (www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency). Since melatonin is a hormone, too little can lead to increased anxiety and nervousness. Your hormones play a major role in your overall health and are directly correlated to sleep patterns, which are disrupted by electronic devices that emit a back lit display. Though there are sleep drugs and melatonin readily available at every local pharmacy and shopping center, there really is no substitute for an all-natural and well rested body. The overall psychological effect of the loss of sleep and its correlation with blue light rays is still undergoing further research, however the results are conclusive that back lit screens emit blue light and this blue light reduces melatonin and decreases sleep.
For the reader that truly enjoys the e-book and the convenience of a tablet as opposed to paper, there are very few companies that produce e-readers and have taken note of the sleep deprivation issues. But thankfully there are options available. The original Kendal does not use a back lit display. Instead the original Kendal by Amazon uses a type of digital paper technology that the human eye absorbs more like a candle and paper than a digital reader, thereby eliminating blue light waves. (www.Android.com) and (www.Googleplay.com) offer a multitude of light filtering apps. Such as their most popular app named Twilight @ (www.twilight.urbandroid.org). Apple company currently does not offer an app or a blue light filter. Instead if you are using an IOS device, you have the option to go into settings and dim the light or switch to nighttime mode. There are third party apps such as Koala Browser, recommended by (www.saferkid.com). Finally, there is Flux (www.justgetflux.com) which is an app that adjusts the displays color temperature according to location and time of day. It is designed to reduce eye strain and encourage better sleep patterns. If you still need additional assistance in blue light filtering, Baush and Lomb offers a pill trademarked “OCUVITE” (www.ocuvite.com) designed to strengthen and replenish the macular pigment that filters blue light. This pill contains seven eye nutrients including lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 and vitamin D, claiming more eye nutrients than any other Ocuvite vitamin.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests that both children and adults set a digital curfew. The suggested time is two hours before bedtime. However, researchers for the foundation state that even thirty minutes before bedtime is better than sitting in bed with an e-reader waiting to fall asleep. A natural paper book with a lamp and not an overhead light is the suggested reading configuration. The e-ink or kindle paperwhite (as opposed to the kindle fire) are a better choice. It is also suggested that you read something not work related or potentially stressful. Try not to scroll social media, or text before bed. Create a “sleep-positive bedroom environment”. Take a bit of time to let your mind clear from the day by reading something relaxing, a relaxed body is more susceptible to a productive night’s sleep.
If you are feeling relaxed and ready for bed, but cannot get to sleep when you lie down, and experience the feeling of your mind being in overdrive, you may be suffering from a decrease in melatonin. There a few steps you can take to naturally regulate your body back to normal. First, try to get outside early in the morning. This will decrease the production of melatonin so you will be ready to produce more when the sun goes down. Second, try to relax and slow down, avoid social media and begin healthy habits like showering and reading either paper or a non-blue light emitting device. Next, set a regular bedtime for yourself and stick to it. This will tell the body it is time to start producing melatonin. Set a bedtime alarm if necessary. Also, avoid exposure to triggers that keep you awake or stressed. Lastly, create a space that is void of loud jarring sounds.