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Your Computer Or iPad Could Be Disrupting Sleep 351

Posted by kdawson
from the bright-idea dept.
Crash McBang sends in a CNN report on electronics and sleeplessness and asks, "So, what do Slashdotters do to get a good night's rest?" "More than ever, consumer electronics — particularly laptops, smartphones, and Apple's new iPad — are shining bright light into our eyes until just moments before we doze off. Now there's growing concern that these glowing gadgets may actually fool our brains into thinking it's daytime. Exposure can disturb sleep patterns and exacerbate insomnia, some sleep researchers said in interviews. ... Unlike paper books or e-book readers like the Amazon Kindle, which does not emit its own light, the iPad's screen shines light directly into the reader's eyes from a relatively close distance. That makes the iPad and laptops more likely to disrupt sleep patterns than, say, a television sitting across the bedroom or a lamp that illuminates a paper book, both of which shoot far less light straight into the eye, researchers said."
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Your Computer Or iPad Could Be Disrupting Sleep

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  • Simple fix (Score:5, Funny)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:04PM (#32229540) Journal

    "So, what do Slashdotters do to get a good night's rest?"

    If you get a girlfriend she will put all those computer things away at night. You also get to have sex and cuddle and spoon her, making it really easy to fall a sleep. It's the easiest and simplest fix.

  • f.lux (Score:4, Informative)

    by kemenaran (1129201) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:06PM (#32229554)
    That's what f.lux [stereopsis.com] is for. It changes the temperature of your screen according to the time (sunrise/sunset). It works under Mac, Linux, Windows ; a real gem.
    • Re:f.lux (Score:4, Interesting)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:41PM (#32230300) Homepage Journal

      It changes the temperature of your screen according to the time (sunrise/sunset).

      There's a much simpler solution. Works with or without a computer. It's called a "sleep mask" and does not require USB, batteries or proprietary power connector. There are even versions that will muffle sound (see "Sleep Master Sleep Mask").

      I started using a sleep mask in my 30's, when I had a really bad bout of insomnia. It was just the thing. Even if you don't want to sleep all night with one, if you want to take a short nap during the day these will really help out a lot. And naps are fantastic. I don't care if they look goofy. I'm an old married guy so I don't need to try to impress anyone while I sleep.

      Sleep is one of the great gifts that we are granted as humans. I squandered so many hours in my twenties and thirties when I could have been sleeping, and then abused coffee and other stimulants to try to cope. Then I'd wonder why I felt strung-out and had jangly nerves. Now, I look forward to sleep with great joy and anticipation. It is high on my list of favorite things to do, for at least eight hours every night. I would give up my latest tech gadget long before I'd part with my flannel sheets, goose-down pillow and chamomile/spearmint tea.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by iammani (1392285)
        Since you have been using one, I have a question about the muffle-sound ones. If the sound and light have been muffed, how do you know when to wake up? (I assume alarms, sunlight both dont have any effect).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          how do you know when to wake up?

          Oh, they don't completely block out the sound. You can still hear an alarm.

          But if you usually get enough sleep, you'll start waking up at the desired time without an alarm. About 15 years ago, I started waking up at 5:38 every morning. I don't know why. No alarm, I'm just suddenly awake. I turn in pretty early, so I'm usually rested. It's probably because I'm getting old.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by duffel (779835)

        Isn't this a solution to a completely different problem? The issue here is not with ambient light while you're trying to sleep, but rather the bright lights shone into your eyes by various appliances while you're using them messing with your body clock.

        f.lux attempts to deal with this by altering the colour temperature of your monitors. Another way might be to simply turn your monitor's brightness down.

    • by LBt1st (709520)

      I can't understand why cell phones don't have light sensors as a standard feature. My old RAZR had one so it would light the keys in the dark. But the main display's brightness should *optionally* be automatic.

      On the main topic. There are lights on the market that slowly light up your room for people that have a unusual sleep schedules or sleep disorders. I have myself spent 4 years working graveyard shifts. These lights are typically very high wattage because it takes a lot of light to fool a sleeping pers

    • Re:f.lux (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Trubacca (941152) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:00PM (#32230462)

      That's what f.lux [stereopsis.com] is for. It changes the temperature of your screen according to the time (sunrise/sunset). It works under Mac, Linux, Windows ; a real gem.

      Bump. Installing F.lux for me was like discovering that I had been secretly poisoned by mercury for the last several years. I simply could not believe how much strain was lifted from my eyes by keeping it on. My ability to sleep has substantially improved, and I get substantially fewer headaches during marathon coding sessions. It has an almost undetectable memory footprint, and you will completely forget it is there. Turning it off is an interesting experience, as it is an instant demo of exactly how penetrating monitor light can be! I recommend it to all of my friends and family. Of course, most people will just have to see for themselves, as I can only speak for myself. In my opinion, however, the function provided is important enough that it's absence as a default feature in OS's seems kind of irresponsible, if not just negligent and a reflection of poor UI research and design.

    • I started using it a week or so ago, and have noticed a striking difference. I'd all but forgotten what it felt like to actually want to go to sleep because I spent so much time at night in front of a big LCD monitor. When I started using f.lux, I started actually feeling tired at night, and found myself going to bed earlier and earlier. It would usually take me a week or more to adjust to sleeping 3 hours earlier than I'm used to, and it would never stick. When I started using f.lux, I was going to bed ho

  • by coolsnowmen (695297) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:08PM (#32229560)

    Of all the bizarre complaints about modern electronics, this is the first one I can definitively understand. Though, how is this any different from the other light sources in reflecting into our eyes at night. I have lights in every room of my house, my TV, and the street lamp outside- so this is nothing new.

    • by balsy2001 (941953) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:17PM (#32229642)
      The article claims that the light intensity is less from the other source. It is about distance and intensity. You usually don't sit 6 inches from your TV or lamp like you might with an iPad. The intensity of light (from a point source) is a function of r^2.
      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:34PM (#32229768)
        But there is a difference in physical size of the light sources as well, and if you adjust the luminance (cd/m^2, probably fairly independent of the size of the screen, be it a TV or an iPod) of your TV and your laptop to be the same and if you watch both from such a distance that each of them covers the same solid angle, your eyes receive equal irradiation from both of them.
        • Yah, as it turns out it depends only on the emittance of the surface and the solid angle subtended by the surface: Each point of light might be reduced in intensity by r^2, but the number of points per solid radian increases by the same amount.

        • by balsy2001 (941953)
          My TV (32 inch) is about 50 times bigger than my iphone and my eyes are about 96 inches from the screen. My phone is about 6 inches from my eyes when I look at it in bed. So...if you assume the screens are the same brightness and that they can be approximated as a point source my iphone is about 5 times more intense to my eyes than my TV ((96*96/36)/50). Lots of guessing here, if I had a light meter I would just measure it. I feel like my iphone is stronger, but that could just be because there is less
    • What color is the street lamp? I'll bet it's a calming pinkish hue. Most are this color as it's been shown to deter crime. I wonder if it has to do with the melatonin effect.
  • iPhone (Score:5, Funny)

    by balsy2001 (941953) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:10PM (#32229572)
    My iPhone disrupts my sleep every day. It's my alarm clock.
  • I believe this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:12PM (#32229592) Homepage Journal

    I've noticed an improvement in my sleep patterns since I set a curfew for the computers, stopping any use of them two or three hours before bedtime.

    • by garcia (6573)

      Guess it depends on the person because even though I have had a computer in my bedroom since before I was born I have never had a problem sleeping anywhere or any time. YMMV.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Guess it depends on the person because even though I have had a computer in my bedroom since before I was born I have never had a problem sleeping anywhere or any time.

        Do you work third shift here?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Absolutely. I have a messed up biological clock. Forgot the proper medical term for it but basically my day/night rhythm isn't a typical 24 hour cycle like most people have but slightly longer. My body likes to think there are 26 hours in a day so to speak.

      I've had this since childhood and a good sleeping pattern always has been some kind of personal hell since I still have to live my life in 24 hr cycles whether i'm made for it or not. Society simply demands it ;)

      A year or two I got some tests again and on

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ShakaUVM (157947)

        Absolutely. I have a messed up biological clock. Forgot the proper medical term for it but basically my day/night rhythm isn't a typical 24 hour cycle like most people have but slightly longer. My body likes to think there are 26 hours in a day so to speak.

        That's actually normal for a human. It becomes problematical when you can't fall asleep at a normal time. I'm like that if I don't get enough sunlight during the day.

        If you constantly feel jetlagged by being forced into a 24 hour schedule, you should prob

      • It's actually slightly longer than 24h for most people. The environment is supposed to give you enough feedback to continually adjust it, and until the invention of the light bulb (only the wealthy could afford enough oil and wax to make a difference before then), it was more than sufficient.

        It actually makes sense from a controls theory point of view: You only really need to dead-head through the night: during the day the intensity varies to give you sufficient cues, so if you've got something that's mo

    • Re:I believe this (Score:5, Insightful)

      by King_TJ (85913) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:01PM (#32229992) Journal

      I don't doubt you, but do you really think it's because the light from the screen fools your brain into thinking it's still daytime, or do you think it's something completely different?

      Personally, I think a lot of people just need to "wind down" before they can get to sleep. They can't go from doing something mentally stimulating to sleeping, just like that. People can fall asleep watching TV because it's a passive activity... but using your computer requires some interaction and mental processing.

  • Turn everything off (Score:3, Informative)

    by toxygen01 (901511) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:13PM (#32229602) Journal
    before you go to sleep. Not only it saves your bill, but you'll get comfy environment to sleep in. No buzzing of adapters, no sound from IM, no fans, ... only silence to enjoy.

    occasionally I let my computer run with shutdown -h +40 and let it play some music like vangelis or enya. computer is in the switch which controls whole multiplug -> comp goes off, everything's going off
    • occasionally I let my computer run with shutdown -h +40 and let it play some music like vangelis or enya

      If you're running KDE and want it to work like a normal shutdown try this script

      #!/bin/sh
      sleep $1
      qdbus org.kde.ksmserver /KSMServer org.kde.KSMServerInterface.logout 1 2 2

      Just run it like ./scriptname 30m or whatever.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And here I was blaming the four pack of Red Bull I just downed.

  • I can remember a time when I could sleep with my computer on. Then, I got a new fan, with a blue LED. This one wasn't like the blue LEDs on the other fans, this one was bright. Really bright! Somewhere along the line, these blue LEDs became some sort defacto choice for any electronic manufacturer I have bought from recently. My laptop's LED indicators are so bright, I cover them with a keyboard at night. Strangely, the red LED on it isn't anywhere near as bright as the blue one (though that might be a power
    • There was. Blue was the last of the "human relevant" colors to be developed into something commercially viable, though, by way of historical trivia, the extremely early, very impractical, silicon carbide devices were blue LEDs(by "human relevant", I mean to exclude exotic application-specific stuff like far-ultraviolet or something.) Somehow, unbearably bright blue then became a symbol of "high tech" among electronics manufacturers with dubious taste.
    • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      Blue LEDs are definitely the new black. Incredibly obnoxious if you ask me. Thankfully black electrical tape works wonders ;) Most of the devices that have these seem to be a shiny black color so it doesn't even really look like shit during the day.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Somewhere along the line, these blue LEDs became some sort defacto choice for any electronic manufacturer I have bought from recently.

      Look on the bright side, my new(-ish) electric blanket has a dull green LED that is invisible after sunrise. Is the blanket on? Who knows!

  • is to fool our brains into thinking the lights not bright so we can continue to use them(melatonin supplements should do the trick). Also, n sample size = 1.
  • Well, doh! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by creimer (824291) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:18PM (#32229652) Homepage
    Simple solution: TURN THE DEVICE OFF!

    Yeah, I know. It's primitive and crude to be pressing the off button on a device. It's not that hard. Using a power strip to turn off a bunch of "always on" devices (i.e., everything connected to TV) not only makes it easy to turn turn them off but also saves electricity when you're not using them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nedlohs (1335013)

      Except it isn't that they are on while you are sleeping, it's that you use them as you are about to sleep.

      Instead of reading a book before you turn off the reading lamp and go to sleep, you're holding an iPad a few inches from your eyes before turning it off and going to sleep.

    • Or, just do like I did, tape over anything that glows!

  • by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:20PM (#32229670) Homepage

    I think that this line from the article says it all:

    While there has been research to show that light -- even artificial light -- can affect human melatonin production, no research has been done specifically on whether the iPad and laptops disrupt sleep cycles.

    Basically, we'll speculate wildly about what might be harming you (threats sell news!) without any actual research. I'm not saying that the claims are improbable, just that it can't be that hard to do some studies on the effects of iPads and other gadgets on sleep. This isn't even a multi-year study, it ought to take a few months (max) to run and probably a few more to work over the data.

  • I went to a presentation the other day where the screen of the presenter turned less bright (removing blue hues) at a certain point.

    He explained that he had a tool that did this based on the time of day, allowing your eyes to relax later at night. His computer was stuck on Tokyo time hence this happening during the demo.

    So far I have been unable to find this utility. It sounds great for those late night scribblings where you don't want to wake your whole brain up.

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:27PM (#32229718)

    Waking up screaming and shitting in my pants every couple of hours.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Waking up screaming and shitting in my pants every couple of hours.

      Apparently, yet another 3rd shift coworker here on Slashdot. Its even worse when it happens in long boring meetings.

  • That's stupid. I use my computer all the time and it never disrup zzzzzzzzzzzz
  • it's comparable to having street lights outside your bedroom. Although urban lighting has always been with us, we have not (yet?) recognised it as a disruptive influence. Personally I find it easier to sleep in a completely darkened room (no lights or i<*> devices. I also find it easier to sleep in a completely quiet room but we're certainly not prepared as a society to give up all our noisy and bright technology "just" for a better nights sleep.
    • by xaxa (988988)

      it's comparable to having street lights outside your bedroom.

      That's the biggest thing I notice whenever I leave the city. I turn the bedroom light off, and then I'm stuck. I'm used to being able to see my way to bed.

      I also find it easier to sleep in a completely quiet room but we're certainly not prepared as a society to give up all our noisy and bright technology "just" for a better nights sleep.

      Aren't we? Most people I know turn their computer, TV etc off at night. Night-time flights over the city are severely restricted. Houses on main roads (or by a railway) are less desirable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by vlm (69642)

      Although urban lighting has always been with us, we have not (yet?) recognised it as a disruptive influence.

      You city slickers can shut off your lights, but what should us country hicks do about moonlight? Only sleep one week per month?

      Also you city slickers can have "silent" rooms but us country hicks whom have gone camping, hear a rock concert of bugs, birds, and nocturnal critters. Seriously loud at times!

      Everything urban is not necessarily bad strictly because its urban, and "natural" is not inherently good, despite enviro-loon propaganda.

  • Naturally (Score:3, Funny)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:36PM (#32229776) Homepage

    Of course my computer disrupts my sleep.

    While I'm using it.

  • I jump on my computer in the morning to help me wake up - it especially works well during the winter months when infact its still dark outside...

    As for evenings, I just turn my computer off and walk away - The only electronic device of that type is my phone, which is face down on the side of my bed, and its on silent anyway.

  • by sgt101 (120604) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @03:39PM (#32229820)

    when will people get this :

    NO ONE CARES WHAT "A RESEARCHER" (or professor, or cleverdick) SAYS

    we only care if they have published peer reviewed research that we can read and evaluate for ourselves and then decide if we believe if it is substantively true or not.

    Thank you for your attention.

  • I put my computer in hibernate or sleep modes before I go to bed, but they're in a different room than my bedroom, and there's no TVs or computers in the bedroom. My home server is two floors below, so it's unlikely that will wake me up at all.

    I need to have my phone with me, but I usually plug it in and then put it under something to block any charging or incoming e-mail lights. Otherwise, the shades are drawn, and the only electrical device in the room is a squeezebox boom with the brightness turned way

  • ... and not on the reading lights or overhead lamps you used to use to read.

    (I know we're all supposed to hate Apple right now on slashdot, but this seems over the top.)

  • Seriously... take a pice of tape and put it over the light; which should dim it to not give it that piercing light.

    I know at night that even when I turn the cable box off there is the green LED lights that is very piercing to the eye, even when i shut my eyes I can still see it and I used to have to put a shirt over the front of the box. So even turning off the device these days will not solve the problem as they seem to have stuck a red bright LED OFF button.
    Also there is no turning off some devices like t

  • Light pollution in most sleeping areas is voluntary.

    My bedroom is dark, has no glowing LEDs other than those on the alarm clock, problem solved.

    For those in a communal situation, the G.I. custom of opaque curtains (we used ponchos) referred to as "spank walls" works well.

  • I spent about two hours finishing a book on the iPad last night, shut it off, went right to sleep. Screen brightness is turned down from halogen floodlight intensity, of course.

    But I've been doing my computer catch-up and late night gaming just before going to bed for decades now, so brain and circadian rhythms are thoroughly beaten into submission.

  • by rbrander (73222) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:05PM (#32230028) Homepage

    The greatest thing about my new "Linux Mint" distribution with "CompizConfig" was the "negative" trick under "Accessibility". It negates all the colour bits in a window or desktop, turning the usual "black ink on white paper" look of most web pages (at least news pages) to white-on-black.

    Hitting that button at night makes you go "aaahhh" as your eyes stop aching when you hadn't noticed how strained they were.

    It was all keewwwwl for them to make the Mac be the first computer to have word processing and so forth look like black ink on paper when every computer monitor before them had been white text on dark. But direct light into your face is NOT reflections from paper and it was always a stupid idea for legibility and ergonomics both.

    I'm not sure about the sleep thing (I don't recall any trouble before I got the "negative" function a few months ago) but trust me, get that capability if you use either a CRT or LCD with modern apps and web pages in a dim room. Your optic nerves will practically sob with relief.

    • by MacAnkka (1172589) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @05:36PM (#32230764)

      ctrl+alt+command+8 negates the screen on a mac. I, too, have used that feature during night a couple of times and it does help.

  • Both my MBP and my iPhone have auto-brightness which will dim the ever living shit out of the display when the ambient light is low ... don't suppose anyone thought of that when doing the study?

  • blah blah iPad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FooHentai (624583) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:12PM (#32230072) Homepage
    I love how this article singles out the iPad for no valid reason whatsoever, just to whore up attention since the iPad is the latest hot topic. Should have thrown in some 9/11 or Obama references for added traffic. Maybe mention Haiti or Thailand a bit. Sleep patterns blah blah IPAD blah devices IPAD blah blah IPAD blah light intensity blah IPAD blah
  • This is crap. A lot of options from experts, but no controlled studies, no proven causation, no scientifically obtained correlation; just a bunch of anecdotal stories and opinion. Typical CNN soft reporting of meaningless drivel. The word "may" exists 9 times in the article and sidebar. Sime examples:

    Some researchers say the iPad and laptops may alter sleep cycles
    Light from the devices' screens may affect internal clocks when used at night
    glowing gadgets may actually fool our brains
    But if bright lights are shining in our eyes, that may not happen as planned
    Electronics with glowing screens may create problems for people who are susceptible to insomnia
    It's possible iPads and laptops, when used late at night, may delay sleep
    etc...

    That there is some very lame-ass reporting. I want my 5 minutes back...

  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Sunday May 16, 2010 @04:15PM (#32230090) Homepage Journal

    I'm in the process of measuring exactly this effect.

    Noontime clear-sky sun measures 9500, blue light through office window with indirect daylight is 250, a desk lamp measures 45, and an LCD TV up close measures 7 uW/cm^2 in the frequency range of the retinal ganglia (480 nm) which is thought to be the part of the eye that senses daily cycles. (Mammalian Eye [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia.)

    So far as I can tell laptops and related devices don't generate an appreciable amount of energy in this range, it's more the artificial indoor lighting.

    As an experiment, I've started wearing red-tinted wrap-around sun glasses 2 hours before bedtime. I can still work, read, watch TV and all that, but the glasses mask off the blue frequencies, telling the brain that the sun has gone down.

    It had an almost immediate effect. I'm a long-time sufferer of insomnia who has tried everything, but wearing the glasses fixed the problem in the first week.

    I'm also a lot more "peppy" during the day, and I wonder if long term exposure to late-night artificial lighting (and low level during the day) is a cause of depression. Depression meds take about 6 weeks to have an effect, so I'm guessing that it would take about 6 weeks for the glasses to have an anti-depressive effect as well. I'm on week 3 with the glasses.

    You can get good wrap-around red tinted glasses at a motorcycle shop for $12. WalMart sells an "old grandpa" set for $25 which will go over your existing glasses.

    It has to be wrap around so that no light gets in over the edges. You don't want polarized lenses because they will interfere with LCD viewing. You want red tinted and "blue blocker". Oh, and make sure they're comfortable.

    If you have to take them off for any reason (such as scratching your nose), you have to remember to close your eyes. It takes a couple of hours of dark before the pineal starts producing melatonin, and I strongly suspect that a short burst of light will reset that internal timer.

    If you try this and it has any effect, positive or negative, I'd like to hear about it. Contact me through my homepage (above), I'll collect and post all the anecdotal stories so we can see if there really is an effect. Negative data is important, so if you try it and find no effect, I'd like to hear that as well.

    • by vlm (69642)

      As an experiment, I've started wearing red-tinted wrap-around sun glasses 2 hours before bedtime.

      If you try this and it has any effect, positive or negative, I'd like to hear about it.

      Talk to home darkroom photographers (chemical prints, enlargers, etc). Also talk to astronomers, whom like that red light. I've done both, never personally experienced the "effect" nor heard rumors of other film photographers or astronomers being sedated by their red light...

      I've heard there's "red-light" areas in some cities where not too much sleeping is going on in bed. I suggest further research, maybe get a grant to fly to Amsterdam?

  • Author Jerry Mander presented the same argument 35 years ago in his great book "Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television".

    He never talks about programming. (It is a given that it is crap.) Instead he discusses the physiological side of TV and how it is affecting us... badly.

  • I think Apple makes great products, but this whole "always leave a stupid light on" makes me think they don't actually use their own products. Their laptops and the Airport Express both insist on ALWAYS having a light on, that is very noticeable in an otherwise dark room. It is really, really annoying.

  • People do not appreciate the difference in light level between a seemingly well-lit home (150 lux) or office (500 lux) and daylight (100,000 lux). You need to get within striking distance of daylight to reset circadian rhythms. A perception of "bright lighting" is not good enough.

    An iPad screen is not readable in daylight, so it must not be as bright as daylit outdoor surfaces. Daylight fills your entire field of view, approximately 2 steradians. An iPad screen is about 70 square inches, and is held, perhap

  • TV's have been around forever and cant be helping. I know people that leave them on WHILE they sleep...

    Just turn it *all* off a while before bed. Simple cheap solution. If you need something to do, how about interacting with your family or going for a walk?

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