How Blue Light from eReaders Affect Sleep, Circadian Rythm

Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness.

Chang A1, Aeschbach D2, Duffy JF3, Czeisler CA3. Author information 1Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA 02115; Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115; and amchang@psu.edu.

2Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA 02115; Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115; and Institute of Aerospace Medicine, German Aerospace Center, 51147 Cologne, Germany.

3Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA 02115; Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115; Abstract In the past 50 y, there has been a decline in average sleep duration and quality, with adverse consequences on general health.

A representative survey of 1,508 American adults recently revealed that 90% of Americans used some type of electronics at least a few nights per week within 1 h before bedtime.

Mounting evidence from countries around the world shows the negative impact of such technology use on sleep.

This negative impact on sleep may be due to the short-wavelength-enriched light emitted by these electronic devices, given that artificial-light exposure has been shown experimentally to produce alerting effects, suppress melatonin, and phase-shift the biological clock.

A few reports have shown that these devices suppress melatonin levels, but little is known about the effects on circadian phase or the following sleep episode, exposing a substantial gap in our knowledge of how this increasingly popular technology affects sleep.

Here we compare the biological effects of reading an electronic book on a light-emitting device (LE-eBook) with reading a printed book in the hours before bedtime.

Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock, and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.

These results demonstrate that evening exposure to an LE-eBook phase-delays the circadian clock, acutely suppresses melatonin, and has important implications for understanding the impact of such technologies on sleep, performance, health, and safety.