If you are reading this late in the evening…STOP…! Just bookmark it and come back to it tomorrow. Honestly, you will be so much better for it if you do.
Late night reading of blogs, checking emails and so on is commonplace. Indeed, web traffic statistics show that there is a steady increase in online usage as the evening wares on, with people checking into their favourite blogs or to Facebook or to their email account just before going to bed.
But such behaviour could be bad for you – really bad.
It turns out that the amount of light we receive by staring into screens affects the production of the hormone melatonin. This hormone is crucial in the body’s time-keeping system – indeed it is central to the issue of jet-lag. When we receive a lot of light into our eyes, it switches off melatonin, telling us to stay awake. Researchers have found, for instance, that just two hours of iPad use at maximum brightness can suppress melatonin production.
What this means is that looking at computer screens late at night can delay sleep. But, you still have to get up at the same time the next day, which means in reality you could be suffering from constant sleep deprivation.
And that’s not all..!
The amount of light we receive is also related to our hormones which control hunger. When we receive more light we feel more hungry. Consequently, a constant over-supply of light could make you constantly more hungry. It may well be that the “obesity crisis” is nothing to do with fizzy drinks and giant burgers in themselves. It is just that as we all sit facing screens, getting more light into our systems, we feel constantly hungry and end up eating more.
And if you thought that was bad enough there’s another reason why late-night Internet usage may not be a good idea. It can lead to stress. People tend to fire off negative emails later in the day. They want to “get off their chest” that thought that has been troubling them. So they write that negative email, which you then read at 11pm. At that point there is nothing you can do about it, so you end up stewing over it, adding to your sleep deprivation and increasing your stress hormones, leading to additional potential health issues.
So what is the answer to all this? Simple – have a deadline when you will not look at any kind of computer device. What works for you might be different to what works for other people – but whatever is “late” for you is not a good time to be looking at screens.
Simply going back to the “old days” and having a book at bed-time could be just the right recipe for sleep, lack of stress and keeping the weight off…!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+