Could your E-reader cause unknown health problems?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
E-books might cause problems with sleep and morning alertness.

Penn State researchers warn that light emitting devices like your e-reader could interfere with getting a good night's sleep. One reason is because electronic devices seem to interfere with the sleep hormone melatonin. Scientists for a new study wonder if the light from iPads, Kindle and other electronic reading devices could have long-term negative health effects.


Authors of a new study say the finding is important given high numbers of people who are sleep deprived. According to investigators, using an e-reader to help you fall asleep could have the opposite effect, plus e-books may leave you tired in the morning.

Printed books healthier than E-readers?

For the study researchers measured the amount of brightness that comes from several devices including the iPad, Kindle, iPhone, Nook and Kindle Fire. They discovered that among these devices the iPad emits the brightest light. They compared sleep quality among 12 adults for 2 weeks in a controlled setting, comparing results of sleep brain waves, heart rate, melatonin levels, breathing and eye movement to reading a printed book.

Anne - Marie Chang, assistant professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State explained in a press release that light emitted from e-readers is different than natural light and has a higher concentration blue light rays. Chang said the researchers were surprised to find out that people who used the e-reader took 10 minutes longer to fall asleep than those who read a book.


E-books might lead to long-term health problems

The finding also showed it took longer to become alert in the morning after using the electronic devices. The study participants read text only from an iPad before bedtime for five nights and then they read a printed book for five nights in a row. E-books could cause morning fog it seems

The short wavelength enriched light that comes from electronic devices has more of an impact on sleep and circadian rhythm the natural light, Chang says. She adds more studies are needed to understand if light-emitting electronic devices could have long-term health consequences. Reading a printed,instead of an electronic book, may be more relaxing and healthier in the long run than we knew.


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