Insomnia? Your iPad Could Be The Culprit

Insomnia? Your iPad Could Be The Culprit

New research suggest that iPad/tablet use before bed can cause sleep disorders and may raise your risk of other health problems.

It’s no real secret that bring your own device (BYOD) programs and the explosion of iPhones, iPads, and other mobile devices in the workplace have begun changing how we work, how we view work as a part of lives, and how much we work out of the office. A study earlier this year concluded that the average American worker using mobile technologies works seven hours outside of the office (essentially one business day) every week. A more recent study indicated some mobile professionals work even more – up to 20 hours each – during off hours thanks to BYOD programs.

One of the impacts this has one iPhone and iPad-toting professionals is a disruption from the traditional work/life balance that can make hard to fully “switch off” at the end of the day. Now there’s evidence that such a disruption can have a physical as well as a psychological impact on the human body.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center recently studied the impact of backlit devices like the iPhone and iPad (along with almost every other piece of mobile technology) on the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps regulate circadian rhythms by inducing drowsiness and lowering body temperature as a precursor to sleep. Melatonin capsules are commonly sold over the counter as a dietary supplement to aid people who have trouble falling asleep.

The researchers discovered that two hours of tablet use before bed can suppress melatonin production by up to 22%.

Reduced melatonin production has been associated with various physical health conditions, most notably trouble falling and staying asleep without disturbance (particularly in teens). It has also been associated with increased risk for conditions like diabetes and obesity as well as some mental health disorders – seasonal affective disorder (also known as seasonal depression) being the most notable.

The RPI study used a rather small group of participants – just 13 people. Substantiating a clear clinical link between iPad (or other tablet) use and insomnia or other conditions related to melatonin production will require additional research. That said, if you find you’re having trouble “switching off” at the end of the evening and/or having trouble falling asleep, avoiding your iPad or iPhone for a while before going to bed might be worth trying.

  • Jonathan Ober

    Don’t blame ipads, blame any devices that lights up in the dark…tvs, video games, ipods, etc…We all should know by now that devices in hands before bed makes it hard for us to go to sleep. Read a book, write a letter or something else to wind down and shut off the devices. ** says the guy that works at home, had a laptop on a holster for client problems, answers emails at off hours all the time, works up to 2am or later/earlier, etc. ** Pot meet Kettle you’re both black :)

  • mr_bee

    Don’t blame ipads, blame any devices that lights up in the dark…tvs, video games, ipods, etc…We all should know by now that devices in hands before bed makes it hard for us to go to sleep. Read a book, write a letter or something else to wind down and shut off the devices. ** says the guy that works at home, had a laptop on a holster for client problems, answers emails at off hours all the time, works up to 2am or later/earlier, etc. ** Pot meet Kettle you’re both black :)

    Also, a very bad idea to use a computer or a TV or similar device in a dark room to begin with. Those people that like to use their computer in a darkened basement room are basically “doing it wrong.”

    Also (too), don’t have anything like this in your bedroom. It’s been proven over and over again to be a very bad idea to have a TV or a computer in your bedroom. Just don’t do it. Bedrooms are for sleeping and sex, keep the TV’s and computers elsewhere and you can’t go wrong. You will sleep far better as well.

  • Rob Klaproth

    So true and this isn’t the first study on backlit devices. There is something about the light shining in your eyes that makes you feel like it’s day time rather then night and your body doesn’t want to go to sleep. I generally use a night cap, aka a bourbon on the rocks, to off set this effect and it works 90% of the time. LOL

  • jamie_smith

    Cannot agree with you more Jonathan. You misuse a technology and then blame the makers… how just is that? For those who blame iPads for not being ergonomic, look at this video http://youtu.be/voYjNffEvfk 
    How difficult is it to convert this brilliant machine to an ergonomic one? It is not even costly. I bought one from http://www.mobiletoyz.co.uk and am loving it since the time i first used it. It is not even cool looking, it helps maintain a nice angle with the screen which is amazing.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in News | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , |