back to article Who wants SLEEP DEPRIVATION for Christmas?

If you've popped an iPad under the tree, thanks for your generosity: you've given the gift of poor sleep, disrupted circadian rhythms and an increased chance of cancer later in life. So says a quartet of boffins* from Harvard's Medical School and Cologne's Institute of Aerospace Medicine, after they watched twelve normal …

  1. petur

    And with a normal book?

    I used to read in bed with a small reading light shining on the white pages...

    Now I read on my Nexus 7 set as white text on black. Light levels are now much lower.

    Not sure I'm worse off now

    1. PleebSmash

      Re: And with a normal book?

      Kindle Paperwhite?

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: And with a normal book?

      I don't suppose the esteemed boffins have any suggestions as to how much of a gap you should leave between reading and attempting to goto sleep?

    3. petur

      Re: And with a normal book?

      Bah... forgot to write the most important part, I've also set the foreground colour to something softer, which these boffins could have done too.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get f.lux or blue blockers and be prepared to nod off ;-)

    The article is a bit lightweight as it's widely known that it's due to the colour temperature of the display particularly the blue part of the spectrum delaying the night-time peak of melatonin. Hence incadescent lighting which has a warm colour palette is a lot less of a problem than LED's - monitors, TV's etc.

    There are programs/apps for adjusting the colour temp of your display at night - I use f.lux. Some people go as far as wear blue-blocker glasses at night.

    If you wish to overdose on the metabolic effects of screwing your natural circadian rythms and how you might mitigate or manipulate them (and diet related matters) I highly recommend the blog/twiiter feed of Dr Bill Lagakos the author of "Calories Proper".

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Get f.lux or blue blockers and be prepared to nod off ;-)

      Yeah, search the Web for 'f.lux alternative for [android / iOS]' for your device. Some use the f.lux technique of just using time and location to set the white balance, some use the ambient light to fit in.

      Anecdotally, I fall asleep in bed reading a conventional book or non-backlit Kindle under a warm GU10 LED within a few pages, whereas a monitor or tablet with a daylight-like white balance will keep me awake.

  3. Whitter

    Display options

    Light text; dark background.

    'nuff said.

    1. xenny

      Re: Display options

      If you look at say an anandtech tablet review, the display section will discuss black levels.

      An LCD screen's idea of black is still pretty bright. :-(

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    I know my desktop screen + coffee overload keep me awake a LONG TIME.

    the increased risk of breast, colorectal, and advanced prostate cancer associated with night-shift work

    Clearly the meme "that book gave me cancer" is waiting in the wings.

  5. The Quiet One

    I use an app called Twilight to reduce the Blue in my phone display. it follows the daylight hours and gradually puts more red in the display as the evening progresses. It's very clever and i honestly think it has made a difference in my sleep when I use the phone before bed ( I had stopped using it as i found myself waking up more regularly and generally having crap sleep). It also means you don't blind yourself when work calls at 3AM.

    1. fruitoftheloon
      Thumb Up

      @The Quiet One


      I use the kindle app on my droid with white on black text, will see how that works with Twilight.

      Thanks for the heads-up


  6. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Backlight levels

    I find on my iPad that I can't turn the backlight down low enough for comfortable reading in bed.

    1. Systems

      Re: Backlight levels

      There's an app called "Screen Filter" (aka "Darker") on Android. Have a look if there's similar for iPad.

      1. Blue Pumpkin

        Re: Backlight levels

        Unfortunately not as Apple won't allow you access to the API required to mess with the screen. You need a jail broken device to do this. There are some musings about this on the f.lux site.

        1. ari

          Re: Backlight levels

          Some reader apps on iOS will allow you to do this, Marvin being an example of this. Works really well!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One question - is this "reading in bed" done in a well lit room or a dark room? It's been "known" that working in poorly lit or spot lit conditions messes with the old noggin and the eyes? Hence the old make sure you watch in a well lit thing with TVs.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      messes with the old noggin and the eyes

      In the sense that you are actually getting sleepy while your teacher demands that you hand in a gazillion papers by 08:00 tomorrow?

  8. Alan Gauton

    Flawed Results

    While the results may be in, they are flawed. The devices used are a couple of Ipads, a Kindle Fire, a Nook tablet, and a Kindle (non-paperwhite).

    The results for the kindle are similar to a paper based object, but there is no test of devices like the Paperwhite, Kobo Aura, etc.

    1. tony72

      Re: Flawed Results

      Where did you find that? I read the paper and did not find information on the readers used, but in articles such as this one talking about the study it says they only used an iPad for the actual study (they measured the light from other devices for comparison).

      I would be very interested to see the study repeated using some different devices, especially e-ink with reading light and OLED displays as well as LCD. Also different modes; these days I read before bed using FBReader in night mode (light text on a black background) with minimum brightness, and my sleep is actually the best it's been for years, but of course that's just a sample of one.

      1. Alan Gauton

        Re: Flawed Results

        I used the link on the BBC report on this story. There was a separate document which listed the devices used. Not sure if most people can see it though, but my workplace has subscriptions to a lot of technical sites.

        (Edit) Found the link:

  9. Chris G Silver badge

    Dead Tree

    I spent a week and a fair bit of money on timber to build bookshelves for my own little library in my house, I shall continue to stock it with pieces of dead tree and take those to bed to read. I have a Tab3 and for no good reason that I can put my finger on, dislike it for reading books, however, I have no problem downloading and reading items from the Gutenberg Project on my Laptop or PC.

    As an alternative, if you would like to protect your sleep patterns and your prostate, give up eBooks at bedtime get as many girlfriends as you can and interact with them before sleep as per the article published a while back by El Reg.

  10. insane_hound

    12 ppl

    yet another study by supposedly expert scientists that have a laughably low number of subjects.... 12 people????? really!!!

    I suspect the results have some merit, but how can you generalise from such a small test group

    1. ari

      Re: 12 ppl

      You can't. But this was probably the kind of study where participants tried all setups (normal book, kindle, probably no reading for control. I haven't read the research so I'm guessing here... But that research setup is called Repeated Measures) which increases the power quite a lot, and 12 subjects can give a surprising power if the study is correctly designed.

      Of course you are right in that 12 people probably don't represent the general population, and even worse, were probably all college students. So, generalisability may be limited, but the small, quick study may be a really good start! (it would be crazy to start with hundreds of people. Expensive and unwieldy).

    2. Handy Plough

      Re: 12 ppl

      Given that sleep studies require a lot of time and attention, that the norm is to generally have < 20 per study and with results are so strikingly similar across the 12 participants in a study as controlled as this, I'd have to argue that the result is reasonably significant.

  11. Haro

    Things to do

    I think most people have said it already. Eliminate strong blue light at night, warm white led bulbs everywhere. Use Twilight for Android, and I have a lot of trouble on my Linux machine keeping Redshift going, so I don't use it much at night. Take 5mg of melatonin at night. In the morning, hit yourself with blue light. I use the Philips goLite which has blue leds.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Things to do

      "Take 5mg of melatonin at night"

      It's a restricted substance in the EU - and most OTC melatonin tablets are quick release, which is entirely the wrong thing needed.

      1. Haro

        Re: Things to do

        Sorry, we get in huge jars at Costco in Canada. It melts under the tongue, and has allowed me to cut down on another drug. A small amount of quick release allows time for your own stuff to kick in. :)

  12. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    iPad is not an e-reader. It's a flat internets-showing thingy you can also use to read some e-books, if you're not worried about killing your eyes in the process...

  13. Little Mouse

    Exactly right

    I can only agree with the researchers.

    Mrs Mouse reads tales of serial-killer-related mayhem every night on her Kindle. It doesn't seem to help her sleep at all.

  14. hplasm Silver badge

    Well, we're all doomed now.

    From the BBC article, the egregious phrase:-

    "But there has been growing concern about the dangers of light before bedtime."

    Dangers. Of light. FFS!

    Get our asses to Mars. Don't let any alarmist fuckwits come.

  15. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    More time to read, then!

    So many books; so little time!

  16. WalterAlter

    can you spell j-u-n-k- science?

    My Imaginary Friend just whispered that this story was cooked up in the Black Ops Department of the Inter Galactic Bookbinder's Brigades.. His magic lantern illuminates the clandestine cadres of Luddism wherever they may be hunkering. Stay tuned for the thrilling climax of the blockbusting social network series disguised as comments..."Hoodwink".

  17. Alan Sharkey

    I read the full report. They basically based their conclusions on iPads running at 100% brightness in a darkened room. With 12 subjects. With the subjects reading for 4 hours solid before trying to sleep.

    How did this ever get classed as a valid study? Sorry, but even in my small scientific brain, this is not the way to do proper experiments.



    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Nor did they point out what the subject material was. Some books, one doesn't want to put down. Others, glance at, turn off the light.

  18. David Pollard

    Do the new LED streetlights have similar effects?

    The new streetlights that are being installed in many cities are certainly bluish. The research here and in another paper I noticed seems to show that only a little short wavelength light can have a significant effect. Is there likely to be enough stray light from streetlights to cause the sort of problems mentioned? Should we be asking for warm white in addition to the energy saving dimming between midnight and five a.m.?

  19. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Nice touch on the footnote, Simon.

    Have one for noting proper usage ---------->

  20. Glenturret Single Malt

    Reading in bed

    Am I the only person who finds that reading in bed is very uncomfortable especially if you are trying to keep your arms and shoulder warm. As a canny Scot, my bedroom heating goes off before I go to bed and the room cools down very rapidly. If you are sitting up propped by pillows, then you might as well be in an armchair elsewhere.

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