Does your iPad prevent you from sleeping?

Some researchers are starting to believe that using your gadgets late at night, or leaving them on in the bedroom, affects sleep patterns.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

We need to talk.

Some of you have obviously been a little restless lately. You've been leaving comments that betray your irritability. You've been lobbing misspelled accusations about my sexuality that might affect my ability to be nominated for the Supreme Court.

So I'd like you to consider whether this fractiousness might just be the fault of your new iPad. It seems that the revolution that's only just begun might one of the culprits behind something of a REMolution that appears to be preventing so many from enjoying a good night's sleep.

According to CNN, some doctors are beginning to suspect that exposing yourself to copious doses of strong light, such as are emitted by laptops and iPads, might mess with your internal timepiece to such a degree that you live in a state of permanent jet lag. Or, as some people might describe it, having children.

Is your iPad seducing you from sleep? CC Alyssa L Miller/Flickr

CNN tells of people who decided to switch off all their gadgets at night in an attempt to regain their former sleep patterns.

Phyllis Zee, a neuroscience professor at Northwestern University and director of the school's Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, explained it to CNN: "If you're using [the iPad or a laptop] close to bedtime...that light can be sufficiently stimulating to the brain to make it more awake and delay your ability to sleep."

Some researchers also wonder whether people who enjoy reading on the iPad might be at greater risk of insomnia than those who use a Kindle, as the iPad beams light straight at your eyes from close range.

For myself, although I have resisted an iPad purchase until it weighs three ounces, can bake gingerbread, and take conference calls for me, I have not noticed any effects on my sleeping patterns from bright screens. I am usually staring into a laptop screen until the last minutes of the evening.

Worse, I enjoy a relatively extreme case of seasonal affective disorder (you try living in Poland with that), so I can claim to be among the world's more light-sensitive. I have always felt total darkness at night was more important for a good night's sleep. George Brainard, director of the Light Research Program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, told CNN he agrees and sees no connection so far between iPads and the like with sleep disorders.

However, Mariana Figueiro, an assistant professor and director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., said that she prescribes sunglasses with orange lenses. To which some might reply: "If I wanted to look like a close relation of Amar'e Stoudemire or Ali G, I wouldn't use the iPad as an excuse."

Personally, I have rarely got much sense out of academics. So I turned to those who might really know. I turned to CNET's David Carnoy.

Here is a man who writes about electronics and lust. Here is a man who tried to resist buying an iPad, but was won over by extraordinary customer service guile at the Apple Store. Here is a man who declared he was "blinded by the iPad."

So I asked whether he had any problems with the iPad and sleep. He almost paralyzed me by admitting he does, although slightly different than the problems mentioned in the CNN report.

"I fall asleep all the time reading my iPad (using it as a book reader)," he told me. "Often, I can't read for more than 20 minutes or so. I'm actually afraid I'm going to drop my iPad off the bed and crack the screen."