Getting an iPad for Christmas? It might not be as useful as you think it is. Tablet devices could disrupt your sleep, making you permanently jet-lagged.
New research from Harvard University has shown that if you use a tablet device within the hour before going to bed you get disrupted sleep. Not only do you sleep less, it takes longer to get to sleep and the kind of sleep you have is of lower quality than normal sleep. As a result you wake up less refreshed than normal.
Millions of people this Christmas will get tablet devices as presents and they’ll be busy surfing the web, checking emails or shopping online right up until bed time. That’s nothing new, of course; millions of people do this on their mobile phones.
If that’s you….STOP….! It is BAD for you.
Indeed, you shouldn’t even be looking at your computer or a TV screen in the hour before you go to sleep.
The reason is simple biology. Your eyes are receiving a huge and direct input of light. That means that a gland deep inside your brain, called the Pineal Gland, sends out signals to your body saying “hey, it is still daytime”. It responds to the amount of light your body receives and as it gets dark it adjusts hormones – including melatonin – in your body which prepare your body for sleeping.
You can spot this easily working naturally. In the winter you tend to get more tired at an earlier time in the evening than you do in the summer. That’s because the long dark nights prepare your body at an earlier time for sleep in the winter than happens in the summer when you get more natural light.
But tablet devices – and mobile phones – which we hold close to our faces provide a huge burst of light, making our bodies start to wake up again thanks to the hormone changes this stimulates. In other words, you are producing jet-lag.
The answer is really simple: stop using tablets, mobile phones, gaming machines and computers in the hour before you go to bed. If you must have some kind of mental stimulation read a real physical book or listen to the radio or a podcast.