A new study conducted by the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York shows that using devices with backlit LED displays – like iPads and smart phones - causes a corresponding dip in melatonin levels. Using such a device for even two hours can have an effect, depriving your body of much-needed melatonin that it requires for a good night of rest.
Everyone knows that the darker a room is, the better you’ll sleep. A solid night of shut-eye contributes positively to numerous health factors, improving your mood, boosting your immune system, increasing your life expectancy and even making you look better. Darkness is required for the body to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone that regulates body temperature, drowsiness and metabolism. When humans don’t get the dark sleep environments that they need, the production of melatonin can be effected – and this can throw your entire body system out of whack.
You wouldn’t sleep in a room with the lights on, but did you know that exposing yourself to certain lights before bedtime can have lingering effects on your sleep?
Humans’ circadian rhythms are set by the rotation of the earth – meaning that we wake up in the morning and get tired at night. Under normal circumstances, about two hours before bedtime, your body ramps up its production of melatonin, signaling your brain that sleepy time is nigh.
However, if you are staring at a backlit LED screen during this time playing Angry Birds or posting dog photos to Facebook, the glare from the artificial lights fakes your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime. Melatonin production never revs up. This not only disrupts your sleep, but can also affect your metabolism. If you go to bed with smart phone in hand, you will wake up more fatigued than usual. Your fatigue spreads into your entire day, making you more likely to make poor food choices as you try to fuel yourself with fat and sugar instead of sleep.
If you are like most young people, you sleep with your smart phone, a crucial tool to feel secure and stay connected with those you love. Having a phone within arm’s reach at all times creates a feeling of being “in the loop” – you won’t miss out on a thing. Besides perhaps, your sleep.
You don’t have to give up your connection to the world, but routinely spending hours on your smart phone or tablet before hitting the hay may be having a bigger effect on your life, and your waistline, than you think. The connection between lack of sleep and weight gain is well documented, but few humans realize that what they do in the hours before bedtime can profoundly affect their quality of sleep.
Reduce the fattening effects of your backlit LED display by putting your phone down--or even better--turning it off. The world won’t end if you don’t read that email until tomorrow morning. Aim to give yourself an hour and a half of glare-free living before bedtime every day.
Can’t put down the phone? Reduce the brightness settings to lower the glare, and lower the negative effects of the screen. If will also help if you hold your phone further away from your face than the standard six inches. Using an e-reader? Reverse the background and read white letters on a black screen.