A recent study has a warning about smartphones, tablets and other portable devices: Using those gadgets may cause sleep problems and other health issues.
IT managers want to pay attention to when and for how long they use their gadgets, and pass on the advice to their company’s users.
The study, conducted by the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, looked at the effects of using electronic devices with self-luminous backlit displays.
Researchers gave 13 subjects tablet computers, which they used for two hours to read, play games and watch movies.
What they found: The displays from tablets had effects that could significantly impact the body’s ability to go to sleep.
Specifically, researchers discovered that the tablets’ displays reduced subjects’ melatonin levels by 22% after two hours of use. Melatonin is a hormone the body produces when it’s dark to begin the process of falling asleep. Being exposed to light at night — especially the type of light produced by those mobile computing devices — suppresses melatonin production, which disrupts circadian rhythms and keeps the user awake.
In addition to disrupting sleep schedules, a loss of melatonin may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, breast cancer and other illnesses, researchers said.
Don’t let smartphones and tablets ruin sleep
LRC researchers are urging manufacturers to build more “circadian-friendly” displays that change the levels of light exposure based on the time of day.
But until those become available, there are some steps people can take preserve normal sleep patterns without throwing their smartphones and tablets in the trash. Here are some tips experts recommend:
- Don’t use tablets and smartphones before bed.
- If a device must be used at night, lower the brightness as much as possible and, if a device allows it, lower its color temperature.
- Don’t keep an active smartphone or other device by the bedside — incoming alerts can make the screen light up and cause further disruptions.