Like to read before bed? The habit could be causing you to lose out on good quality sleep. But even worse, it could be sending your risk for diabetes and heart disease skyrocketing.
Well, if you’re doing that reading on a smartphone, tablet or laptop that is.
It turns out today’s portable electronic devices have triggered a modern day sleep-crisis.
In fact, according to Dr. Gregory Marcus—lead researcher on a recent study published in PLOS One on the rise in sleep problems we’ve seen in the last decade—using smartphones close to bedtime causes us to take longer to fall asleep and have worse sleep throughout the night.1
The bright lights from these modern devices fools your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. And over time that can spell disaster for your health.
Your smartphone fools your internal clock
Sleep experts say being exposed to backlit devices too close to bedtime can upset your internal clock (also known as a circadian rhythm) leading to poor quality sleep and insomnia.
Unlike the light from a bedside lamp, which bounces off the book or magazine you’re reading before entering your eyes, the blue light emitted from your smartphone or tablet shines directly into them at a close distance.
And since your body is unable to tell the difference between bright artificial light and sunshine, the light receptors in your eyes tell your brain it’s time to be awake.
When your brain gets the “awake” message it stops secreting the hormone melatonin that helps you relax and feel sleepy.
Poor sleep sends your risk for diabetes skyrocketing
So we’re left tossing and turning. And we wake up sleep deprived in the morning making us more likely to develop everything from diabetes to heart disease.
In fact, when we suffer from sleep deprivation what happens inside our bodies can look a lot like pre-diabetes, or the insulin resistance that shows up before someone is diagnosed with a full blown case of type 2 diabetes.
Your cells stop using glucose effectively and this drives your blood sugar levels up.
In one shocking study out of the University of Chicago researchers found that just three nights of poor sleep could raise your risk for diabetes essentially as much as if you had packed on an extra 20 or so pounds.2
And in another study published in the journal Diabetes Care poor sleepers were shown to have a staggering two to threefold risk of one day getting a type 2 diabetes diagnosis, compared to a group who didn’t have any sleep problems.3
Bad sleep habits put your heart at risk too
Not getting enough sleep can cause us to gain weight and is linked to a higher risk for heart disease too.4,5 And research finds that folks getting six or less hours of sleep a night are 66 percent more likely to have hypertension than those getting seven to eight.6
In other words, getting a decent night sleep isn’t just a good idea, it can be critical for staying healthy.
So what’s a modern reader to do?
Limit your laptop, smartphone or iPad reading time, shutting the device down at least one to two hours before going to bed. Or switching to a non-backlit e-book reader, such as the Kindle or Nook, for bedtime reading might help too.
1. “Direct Measurements of Smartphone Screen-Time: Relationships with Demographics and Sleep,” PLOS One, Published: November 9, 2016
2. “Slow-wave sleep and the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans,” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jan 22; 105(3): 1044–1049
3. “Sleep Disturbance and Onset of Type 2 Diabetes,” Diabetes Care 2004 Jan; 27(1): 282-283
4. “Sleep disorders and the development of insulin resistance and obesity, Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am., 2013 Sep;42(3):617-34
5. “Inadequate sleep as a contributor to obesity and type 2 diabetes,”Can J Diabetes. 2013 Apr;37(2):103-8
6. “Cardiovascular, Inflammatory and Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation,” Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Jan-Feb; 51(4): 294–302
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