Do tablets and eReaders keep you awake?

Does using tablets and backlit eReaders at night lead to sleep deficiency and damage health?

According to findings published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, blue light, the wavelength common in smartphones, tablets and LED lighting, can disrupt the body clock and slow or prevent the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

The study found that using light-emitting electronic devices for reading, communication, and entertainment before bedtime meant it took longer to fall asleep, suppressed levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin and reduced or delayed the amount of REM sleep. And we’re not as alert the following morning!!

Results were based on 12 people locked in a sleep laboratory for two weeks. The results were concluded after taking blood samples from participants who spent five days reading from a paperback and five days from an iPad.

Lead researcher Prof Charles Czeisler said: “The light emitted by most e-readers is shining directly into the eyes of the reader, whereas from a printed book or the original Kindle, the reader is only exposed to reflected light from the pages of the book. Sleep deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes, and cancer. Thus, the melatonin suppression that we saw in this study among participants when they were reading from the light-emitting e-reader concerns us.”

Reading can be immersive

I capture the castleIn I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith,  Cassandra Mortmain says she would “bask first, wash second and then read as long as the hot water holds out” when taking a bath.

Apparently readers are less inclined to to do this with their e-readers in the bath than paper books. To take the worry out of it, one of the e-reader manufacturers, Kobo, is launching a waterproof device in October, Kobo Aura H20, which will be the world’s first premium waterproof “E Ink e-reader”. 

 They say that “readers can now enjoy worry-free reading wherever they go, anywhere they want to read, including previously risky places like the bath or at the beach”.

Perhaps you can’t go on a long swim with it – it’s waterproof for up to 30 minutes in one metre of water with the port cover closed. 

Keep taking the tablets

More and more people are using tablets as their preferred digital reading device and they’re now overtaking e-readers .

According to the Bookseller, a Nielsen’s survey shows that 51% of book buyers in the first quarter of 2014 owned a tablet to use as a dedicated e-reader, compared to 25% who owned a device specifically made for books.

Last year in the same period, 33% owned a tablet and 25% an e-reader. Although the research shows that more people still buy books on e-readers than on tablets, the gap is now closing, with 37% buying books on tablets compared with 28% in 2013, and 46% buying books on e-readers this year, a fall from 61% in 2013.

To download eBooks and eAudio (link to the catalogue) on to your tablet, just download the Overdrive app