Your Tablet and Smartphone Could Be Ruining Your Sleep

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News Posted: Mon, Aug 27 2012 2:52 PM
Many of us are guilty of fiddling with our phones and tablets in bed at night. Whether it’s trying for three stars on every level of Angry Birds, Facebooking, doing some Fantasy Football research, or just streaming a movie, our devices are lit while the bedroom is dark.

According to research from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s (RPI) Lighting Research Center (LRC), our electronic backlit devices can seriously affect our sleep cycles.

“Our study shows that a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22 percent. Stimulating the human circadian system to this level may affect sleep in those using the devices prior to bedtime,” said Mariana Figueiro, associate professor at RPI and director of the LRC’s Light and Health program. Melatonin is a hormone affected by darkness that lets the body know that it’s time to conk out for the night; too much light can cause a decrease in melatonin.

RPI sleep study goggles

“So what”, you’re thinking, “What’s the worse that could happen?” Apparently, lots of terrible things. According to the study:

Suppression of melatonin by light at night resulting in circadian disruption has been implicated in sleep disturbances, increased risk for diabetes and obesity, as well as increased risk for more serious diseases, such as breast cancer, if circadian disruption occurs for many consecutive years, such as in nightshift workers.

The study used three groups of subjects. One group looked at devices with blue LED-lit goggles, which is known to reduce melatonin production; another group was outfitted with orange goggles that filtered out the melatonin-killing light; and the third group wore no goggles at all.

The folks at LRC hope that this research can both inspire and guide display manufacturers in developing more circadian-friendly products.

One small thing that can help, according to the researchers, is to dim the brightness on your device at night, which will help reduce the amount of shortwave light that hits your brain.
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Erakith replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 3:24 PM

Looks like i'm going to be obese, diabetic and possibly dead then. I've been using electronic devices well into the early hours of the morning almost consistently for more than 5 years. Oops.

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Jaybk26 replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 3:32 PM

Anyone have a link to the full study?

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InsideSin replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 5:03 PM

I've put my phone under my pillow and set it to vibrate once before so I'd wake up when my friend texts me.

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NKR replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 6:06 PM

Yes it is.

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LBowen replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 6:21 PM

I try to limit my electronics use 20-30 minutes before bed. My sleep is relatively undisturbed but when I hit the hay I'm out like a light.

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NNK replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 6:47 PM

True Story :( Sad Story

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Yes.. Its making me obese and unfit

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http://www.lrc.rpi.edu/resources/newsroom/pr_story.asp?id=235

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Yes... They are affecting my concentration too.. I just pick up my phone and just browse it for no reason... kind of an addiction :(

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PKumar replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 7:09 PM

I am in control... its all a matter of self-control really

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DDK replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 7:16 PM

“What’s the worse that could happen?” Everyone says that

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Best article I've read in weeks

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RRajan replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 7:31 PM

Have to change my lifestyle. Seriously.

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Breast cancer !? Knew it wasn't that good but, i didn't think it was that bad ! Fortunately i do dim the brightness everytime i use my laptop in the dark but still.

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InsideSin replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 7:54 PM

Oh I just forgot! I've been using this for a long time. When it senses it is getting dark where you live, it dims your computer screen a tinge of orange! The program takes a little getting used to at first but after 3 minutes you won't even notice the difference.

http://stereopsis.com/flux/

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I've read about this problem years ago. It's been documented how continual lack of enough sleep can really hurt the human body. It's an ongoing problem here in the U.S. and the rest of the planet.

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For the sake of gaming i refuse to stop. Id rather have no regrets for the win.!!!!!

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JOMA replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 9:03 PM
I slept terribly prior to having a smartphone so I don't think that is it. You can always take melatonin supplements if that's the only thing that's causing poor sleep.
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AKnudson replied on Mon, Aug 27 2012 10:09 PM

Erakith don't forget breast cancer.

i always wondered why the all night gaming sessions.... ahem i mean study sessions, seemed so much more.... Productive when the lights where on. when i play in the complete dark my brain goes into a half sleep mode, and i wander around like a zombie until dawn.

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rapid1 replied on Tue, Aug 28 2012 8:35 AM

Yup LBOWEN has the right idea you have to limit you use of focus media prior to sleep. I personally turn my smart phone off before I go to bed unless for some reason it needs to be on (extra alarm etc) which has been approximately one time I know in the last 3 months.

The funny thing is sleep in general is a personal thing. I go to bed within 15 minutes of laying down and always have. I also need about 6.5-7 hours of sleep nightly maximum. Sarah my other half needs 8-9, and Rhiannon our 5 year old gets 10 almost always. My point is any study of human behavior is automatically flawed as it does not take into affect complete individuality. On the contrary use of devices that take complete or great amounts of concentration before sleep is inadvisable as I earlier stated.

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AMarkow replied on Tue, Aug 28 2012 8:42 AM

Do you sleep with your smart phone? Then check out http://www.smartphonesleeper.com

The only smart phone holder made for all beds and all smart phones.

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eunoia replied on Tue, Aug 28 2012 9:25 AM

.

...pending.

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Old news is old. These studies have been done before, only difference? They used different lights. Yes, stuff glaring into your face is bad. That just common sense I would assume. Light causes eye strain, especially high contrast light, so you should be giving yourself reprieve from your device before bed, but if you have ambient light, it will be fine.

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SandMulls replied on Sat, Sep 1 2012 10:10 PM

Although this may be the general rule for everybody, i tend to disagree on a personal basis. Within 5 minutes of lying in bed, I immediately fall asleep, and that is even after staying for hours browsing a tablet. :) Maybe it's in my genes.

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