Trouble Sleeping? Blame Your iPad, Report Suggests

A new report reveals that tablets may be the reason you’re struggling to fall asleep at night.

The Lighting Research Center at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York tested the backlit displays of tablets and their affect on humans’ ability to fall asleep. What they found was that the devices’ displays had a significant impact on their study participants’ melatonin levels, which is a hormone that helps regulate sleep. 

It’s common these days for people to use their smartphones or tablets in bed not long before going to sleep. But this may be triggering sleep loss, which has all sorts of negative effects on humans.

“Our study shows that a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22%. Stimulating the human circadian system to this level may affect sleep in those using devices prior to bedtime,” said Mariana Figueiro, associate professor at Rensselaer.

Lighting Research Center specialist Brittany Wood explained that, “to produce white light, these electronic devices must emit light at short wavelengths, which makes them potential sources for suppressing or delaying the onset of melatonin in the evening, reducing sleep duration and disrupting sleep.”

The good news is that you don’t need to abandon your nighttime reading or midnight web surfing on your iPad. The researchers simply suggest two things: dim the device’s display as much as possible and limit the amount of time spent on it right before you want to sleep.

I find that, by turning off my lamp on my nightstand and lying in bed in virtually total darkness, I can comfortably consume content on my iPad at only 15% of maximum brightness. Not only does this keep my melatonin levels up, it also makes my tablet’s battery life seemingly infinite (the impact display brightness has on battery drainage is profound). Using it for less than an hour at this dim level means I have no trouble falling asleep immediately after.