A Good Sleep Habit Gone Bad, and How to Fix It
For generations before the days of television – and for many after that flickering screen invaded our homes – reading a good book has been the perfect way to relax before bed. Now it threatens to rob millions of the sleep it used to promote.
Reading can help clear your mind of the worries of the day, promoting calm. It helps your body relax and slow down. And reading a good book is entertaining, so it puts you in a good mood.
Relaxing in a pool of soft light with an absorbing story is the perfect way to set the stage for sleep. So why is reading now robbing millions of the sleep it once encouraged?
It’s how we read that makes the difference.
Last year, almost a third of book sales came from e-books. More and more people find the convenience of having multiple volumes in a thin, light electronic device easier than hauling around printed books.
Others point to the ecological value of using an e-book reader. E-books save trees. What they don’t save is your night’s sleep.
Researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital recently looked specifically at the effect e-book readers have on sleep.
Like televisions and computers, most e-book readers give off lots of blue light. As I’ve mentioned before, blue light tells your brain it’s time to be awake… and suppresses your sleep hormone, melatonin.
In the Boston study, volunteers read before bed in two ways. For 5 nights in a row, they read traditional paper books. In another 5-day stretch they read using backlit e-book readers. Some read paper books first, others started with e-book readers. But they all read for the same amount of time each night in a controlled hospital setting.
While using the e-book readers, the volunteers felt less sleepy at night, took longer to fall asleep, and spent less time in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It’s during REM sleep that your brain consolidates memories and learning.
After just 5 days of using a backlit e-book reader, the volunteers’ natural body rhythms had been thrown off by an hour… their bodies were making less melatonin… and they were groggier in the mornings.
If you’re one of the many readers who’ve switched to using an e-book reader, don’t despair. You don’t have to give up reading.
Here’s how to still enjoy a relaxing story before bed… and still get a good night’s sleep…
• Read before going to bed, but not in bed.
• Keep your light source as soft as possible while still being able to read comfortably. Turn off any unnecessary lights to create a “nighttime” atmosphere.
• Avoid reading on topics that may upset you, such as politically controversial material.
• Read a traditional paper book or use an e-book reader that’s not backlit. Typically, these are entry-level models. They have fewer features than backlit models, but they’re also less expensive.
Of course, if you need a little “booster” to help you sleep, consider a nutritional supplement containing melatonin, lemon balm, valerian, or another natural sleep aid.
Yours in continued good health,
Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
Source: “Light-Emitting E-Readers Before Bedtime Can Adversely Impact Sleep,” Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Dec 22, 2014.
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