Toxic Tech: How Our Devices Keep Us Up

By Jonathan Spira on 14 September 2012
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Curling up with a tablet before going to sleep may be the 2012 equivalent of curling up with a good book, but, according to research recently released by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, exposure to light from a computer tablet could lower the level of melatonin in the body, and therefore impact our sleep cycle adversely.

This is a particularly significant finding for frequent travelers, since their sleep patterns are frequently already disrupted by travel.

The Rensselaer study, published over the summer in the journal Applied Economics, investigated the impact of self-luminous tablets on 13 individuals.  “Our study shows that a two-hour exposure to light from self-luminous electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22 percent,” the study’s director, Mariana Figueiro said in the study.

But that is not the only thing keeping travelers up, although it may be a major factor.

Look around your bedroom or the next hotel room you are in.  Are there tiny beams of light, maybe blue ones and/or green ones?  Or perhaps a red one? Is there a glow emanating from a digital clock or clock radio?

“I hate the green light my MacBook emits when it is fully charged,” said Frequent Business Traveler associate editor Dan Collins when I told him what I was writing about. “It would keep me up and I’ve found myself putting the computer under the bed so I could sleep.”

Dan also told me he taped over the blue, laser-like light from a television he used to have in his bedroom.

According to both common sense and the National Sleep Foundation, one’s bedroom should be dark but in the past decade that sanctuary has been infiltrated more and more by electronic devices.  In addition to a clock or clock radio (which should automatically dim when the lights are out), there’s the  settop box (did you know you can turn the clock off on most of them?).  Then there are the tiny beams of light generated by your mobile phone, when it’s charging, your laptop, if it’s in the bedroom, and perhaps even your high-tech desk phone (for those still with landlines).

Click here to continue to Page 2How to Disconnect Before Bedtime

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