Is Your iPad Keeping You Awake?

J.D. Moyer is a sleep-deprived native of California. He had read somewhere that strong light – including that coming from an electronic device screen – can reset your internal sleep clock. He decided to conduct an experiment based on that information, and was surprised at the results. For an entire month, he turned off every light in his home at sunset… even his laptop and the bulb inside of his fridge. Instead of falling asleep close to midnight every night, he started crashing out before 9 PM. He felt extremely well-rested during the day and had a lot more energy.

Consumer electronics are being used right up until bedtime these days… and even while we’re already tucked IN bed. I know many people who take their iPads to bed with them. They may be reading a book or catching up on their favorite television shows. However, this could be interfering with their ability to fall asleep and become fully rested and recharged.

“Potentially, yes, if you’re using [the iPad or a laptop] close to bedtime … that light can be sufficiently stimulating to the brain to make it more awake and delay your ability to sleep,” said Phyllis Zee, a neuroscience professor at Northwestern University and director of the school’s Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology. “And I think more importantly, it could also be sufficient to affect your circadian rhythm. This is the clock in your brain that determines when you sleep and when you wake up.”

Light from a laptop, iPad or other device is usually held close to the body and the light is shining directly into your eyes. This doesn’t happen as much with the soft glow from a reading lamp or a television broadcasting from the other side of your room. You would likely fall asleep much easier if you were to curl up with an actual book than you do when you download something to do on your iPad.

When receptors in our eyes are hit with bright light for an extended period of time, they send a message to the brain saying it’s time to be awake. The brain, in turn, stops secreting a hormone called melatonin, which makes people sleepy and helps regulate the internal sleep clock. Normally, our brains start giving us that hormonal sleep aid at about 9 or 10 p.m. But if bright lights are shining in our eyes, that may not happen as planned.

You may think that six or seven hours of sleep is sufficient. After all, we have a lot to get done. There aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything as it is. However, research proves that if you are well-rested (think 8-9 hours of sleep), you’ll have more energy and be more productive. This can translate into getting more accomplished in a fewer number of hours. I don’t know about you, but if I’m tired and draggy I spend a lot of my “working” time staring into space or messing around on time-wasting tasks. When I feel awake and energized, I focus on what needs to be done and crank out the tasks.

How do you fall asleep? Do you take a laptop, iPad or other device to bed with you? Are you on the computer right up until it’s time to roll into the sack? Most importantly – do you feel rested in the mornings?