Sunday, March 25, 2012

The use of laptops or tablet PCs before sleep 'increases the risk of insomnia'

This is a guest post by Laura Leegood.

Computer users should turn off their computers or Tablet PCs at least two hours before bedtime, if they want to have a good night's sleep. If you are someone who can’t go thirty seconds without checking your BlackBerry, Twitter or Facebook and you take all your gear to bed, think again!

U.S. researchers found that bright light emitting devices can interfere with both the performance of the human brain and sleep patterns.

Consumer electronics products such as laptops and tablet computers deceive our minds into thinking that it is still day, thus causing prevention of sleep and the risk of insomnia. This is something rarely mentioned in iPad, Nexus or PlayBook reviews.

Sleep experts say that our bodily clocks begin to gradually reduce brain activity between 9 and 10 pm, but that the use of computers interferes with that process and delays it until later at night. Because the brain is biologically designed to wake up at sunrise, light during our resting hours causes the brain to stop secreting melatonin (the hormone that causes sleep).

The researchers assert that the blue light of tablets like the iPad, which are expected to continue gaining in popularity as a tool for reading, affect us more at night when the brain believes it should be dark. Human eyes are more sensitive to blue light, which naturally is more common in the day than at night.

"If you use your Tablet PC or laptop before going to bed, that light can stimulate your brain enough to wake and delay sleep" Phyllis Zee, a professor of neuroscience at Northwestern University and director of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, said in an interview with CNN. "And, more importantly, it would be enough to affect your circadian rhythms. This is the clock that determines when you sleep and when awake."

Alon Avidan, associate director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of California Los Angeles, added: "I wish people would just take a boring book -an outdated book - and read it near a lamp. If people did this, I'm sure you would feel much better and could relax more easily."

This problem is compounded by the fact that tablets and smartphones have been shown to cause anxiety and stress to their users, due to the fact that we are constantly expecting updates through text messages, email and social networking. Download Facebook to your smartphone, and you may find yourself waking up in the night with “phantom vibrations” from your phone making you think you’ve got an alert when you don’t.

Reading a good book is a better way to rest your brain and make sure you have a good night's sleep. A lamp on the bedside table does not affect the brain, as the eyes do not look directly into the light, and nor do good books usually cause anxiety!

About the Author
Laura a technology and social media expert from London.