Does iPad Usage Affect Sleep?

By Andy Walton

Apple's iPad can be found in millions of homes worldwide, with 22.9 million of the devices sold in 2013's first fiscal quarter alone. The iPad's size and portability make an ideal device to use in bed, but some specialists warn that excessive iPad use could make it more difficult to get to sleep. Learning the facts behind iPad use and sleep will help to ensure that your device doesn't keep you awake at night.

Melatonin

Looking at bright lights stops your brain from secreting a sleep-aiding hormone called melatonin. This is a natural reaction which keeps you awake when the sun is up and helps you sleep at night. The light emitted by an iPad's screen is bright enough to interfere with this process, stopping melatonin from being released even after dark. A 2012 Lighting Research Center study showed that two hours of exposure to self-luminous displays can reduce melatonin release by 23 per cent.

Disrupted Rhythm

Your body processes run on what is known as a circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a repeating cycle that lasts roughly 24 hours and governs the times you need to perform basic body functions such as sleeping and eating. By affecting melatonin production, excessive iPad use can disrupt this rhythm, causing you to want sleep during the day. This effect is similar to jet lag, in which your circadian rhythm is disrupted by travel across time zones.

Excitement

It has been suggested that using the iPad to play exciting games before bed could leave you overstimulated and unable to sleep. However, findings on this are inconclusive. A 2012 study from Flinders University in Australia showed that teenagers who played 150 minutes of violent iPad games before bed took longer to fall asleep than those who played 50 minutes, but the study did not find any differences in heart rate between the two groups immediately after their playing sessions.

Precautions

You can minimize the chances of iPad use disrupting your sleep by taking a few precautions at bedtime. Reduce the amount of light hitting your eyes by holding the device slightly further away from your face and using it on a reduced brightness setting. Researchers at both Flinders University and the Lighting Research Center found that more than two hours of iPad use had the most pronounced effect on sleep, so minimize your use times in bed.