Need some shut-eye? Then give those eyes a rest from screens

Oct 29 2012 - 4:20pm

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Want a good night's sleep? Lay off the electronics before tucking into bed.

Today's gadget-obsessed world is causing us to lose sleep, according to new research. Before all of these electronic devices came on the market, we were getting up to 10 hours of sleep -- compared with fewer than seven hours today.

In a study published in the journal Applied Ergonomics, researchers from the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that a two-hour exposure to electronic devices with self-luminous "backlit" displays prior to bedtime causes lowered levels of the sleep hormone melatonin, which might lead to delayed sleep, especially in teens.

Volunteers in the study read, played games and watched movies on an iPad, iPad2 or a PC tablet for various amounts of time while the amount of light their eyes received was measured. Those exposed to two hours of bright tablet screen light at night had a 22-percent reduced melatonin level.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland at night and under conditions of darkness. The hormone serves as a "timing messenger," according to the study, signaling that it's bedtime.

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