Small-business owners often rely on mobile devices—whether smartphones or tablets—to stay connected, check email and conduct work well into the night. But new research suggests they should disconnect from their devices in the evening, especially if they want a decent night’s sleep.
A new study conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that the light emitted by devices such as tablet computers and mobile phones can cause serious sleep disruption. Sleep researchers have long suspected that these devices hinder quality of sleep, but the new study found more drastic effects than previously thought.
The researchers found that the blue light from these devices seems to suppress the body’s production of melatonin—a sleep-inducing hormone—and can make it difficult for someone to fall and stay asleep. For example, it found that while people use an Apple iPad at night, their body produces 55% less melatonin than people who don’t use an iPad.
Over the long term, suppression of melatonin has been linked to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer.
The study looked specifically at iPads, but the researchers say there’s good reason to believe the sleep-disruption comes from all types of devices that emit blue light—which includes laptops, smartphones and LED monitors.
"What we showed is that reading from light-emitting, e-reader devices has profound biological effects,” Charles Czeisler, director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The Washington Post.
For business owners who rely on their devices to keep their businesses running, they may want to stop using their devices after about 7 p.m. or within a few hours of going to bed. Dimming the screen on devices can also help reduce the light emissions and, in turn, the sleep disruption.
Some companies also sell amber-tinted goggles that block blue light, while others sell software (like f.lux) that make a device’s screen color adapt to the time of day, reducing blue light in the evening.
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