Digital Evidence Forensics Expert:
Are E-books Ruining Your Sleep?

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With the holiday season behind us, hopefully you are all using those fun and interesting electronic gifts you received. One of those gifts might be a tablet or e-reader, but beware it could have an adverse effect on your sleep cycle. Specifically, backlit e-readers and tablets should not be used before going to sleep, says a new study from the Cambridge, Massachusetts based Harvard Medical School.

Electronic Evidence Expert - Amazon Kindle Seattle Washington

The study involved a small sample of people (twelve to be exact) who were locked in a sleep lab for two weeks. Some of the participants were given hardcopy books, some were given backlit tablets, and some were given e-ink readers. The study found those who used the back lit e-readers were more likely to have reduced melatonin levels (a sleep hormone). In addition, it took longer for those using the backlit devices to fall asleep. The study group which used the devices also experienced less deep sleep. The result: the participants were more likely to wake up tired and groggy. Those who were given e-ink readers (such as the original Kindle) were not affected as the device doesn’t use a backlit screen.

How is this possible you ask? Most new phones, tablets, and e-readers now come with LED backlighting, which is what makes your screen so bright and crisp. This is a good thing. The problem is LEDs create a subtle blue light. LEDs are not “perfect white”, but rather have a light blue hue to them. This blue color messes with the body’s internal clock, thinking that it is still daylight outside, when in reality it is the middle of the night.

So what can you do? The easiest thing is to limit your mobile device usage before you go to bed, eliminating the excess of blue light.There are apps now that will change the color of your screen to a more reddish color. Some studies have shown this can help regulate the body clock while using mobile devices. If you have a few extra bucks lying around, invest in an original Kindle if you don’t like the old fashioned hardcopy book. This is not to say you shouldn’t go out and get the new iPad, in fact it looks pretty awesome. But be aware it can affect your sleep when using it at night.

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By Sean Greene

Evidence Solutions, Inc.

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