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.Related