How Kindle and other eReaders can harm your sleep

Love reading books on your e-reader? Well, it's probably best you switch back to the paper version, if you value your sleep that is. A recent study found that it is a better idea to read paper books before sleeping as use of e-readers can adversely impact overall health, alertness and body clock that synchronises the daily rhythm of sleep.

What did the study find?

The study performed at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) found that exposure to light during evening and early night-time hours suppresses release of the sleep-facilitating hormone melatonin and shifts the circadian clock, making it harder to fall asleep at bedtime. According to Anne-Marie Chang, assistant professor of bio behavioral health at Pennsylvania State University, 'Electronic devices emit light that is short-wavelength-enriched light which has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light. This is different from natural light in composition, having a greater impact on sleep and circadian rhythms.'

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The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This study begs the question, are electronic devices really causing ill health? Well, here are some ill-effects electronic devices have on our health.

1. Can cause neck and back problems: Bending at the neck and slouching your back as you peer into your phone or e-reader can have immediate as well as long term effects. Not only does it lead to conditions like spondylitis but it can also put immense strain on your back, neck and spine altering your gait.

2. Affects your eyesight: The glare from these electronic devices are extremely harmful for your eyes, especially if you read in a dark room. The bright light of the screen strains your eyes as your pupils contract quickly to adapt to the light from the screen. Apart from that the glaring screen and small font size put a lot of strain on your eyes, especially if you re reading in the dark. Mobile devices have smaller screens so you tend to squint or open up your eyes and blink lesser number of times. This can cause dry eyes, irritation and redness.

3. Can cause depression and anxiety: In a recent study scientists found that students who use cell phones and other electronic devices extensively are prone to anxiety, depression.

4. Can lead to sleep disorders

Somehow night-time has always been favourite among regular chatting and gossip freaks. But do you know that s the main reason why you are sleep deprived? Several studies have concluded this. One of them is a cohort study by Sara Thom eet al[2] which found that high mobile phone use was associated with sleep disorders. Major contributing factors to interrupted sleep pattern are waking up in the middle of the night due to mobile rings and vibration and increased use of mobiles post-evening until midnight.

5. Can give rise to heart problems

Radiation from cell phones is not only associated with cancer but also with chronic diseases like heart problems. A study published in European Journal of Oncology, radiations emitted by cordless phones, including mobiles, contribute to abnormalities in heart function. Results reported that radiation causes the red blood cells (RBCs) to seep hemoglobin and lead to heart complications.

6. Can cause hearing impairment

Today, every alternate person on the street has earphones plugged in. But that s not the only reason why hearing loss is increasing in youth and adults. Your mobile radiation is an additional factor that s making you deaf. Studies report that long-term exposure to electromagnetic (EM) field from cell phones contributes to reducing hearing function. A study by Oktay MF and Dasdag S showed that people who attended phone calls for approximately 2 hours every day were at a higher risk of impaired hearing compared to moderate users (10-20 mins).

With inputs for IANS

Image source: Getty Images

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