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Exposure to Backlit Displays Reduces Melatonin Production 192

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the hack-all-night dept.
alphadogg writes "Researchers have discovered that relatively little exposure to tablets and other electronics with backlit displays can keep people up at night by messing with their circadian rhythms. The study from the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed that a 2-hour exposure to electronic devices with such displays causes suppression of the melatonin hormone and could make it especially tough for teens to fall asleep. The study, funded by Sharp Laboratories of America, simulated usage of such devices among 13 people using special glasses/goggles and light meters"
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Exposure to Backlit Displays Reduces Melatonin Production

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  • Orly? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    My eyes! The goggles, they do nothing!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:05PM (#41144773)

    Surely 13 people is too few to draw meaningful conclusions?

    • by cyclopropene (777291) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:32PM (#41144939)

      Surely 13 people is too few to draw meaningful conclusions?

      Yes. Especially if not compared to people reading a book under a 60 watt incandescent light bulb.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        Yes. Especially if not compared to people reading a book under a 60 watt incandescent light bulb.

        You must be somewhere with 110-120V mains.
        60W is way too bright a bulb to use for reading in areas with 220-240V, unless you sit in the next room.

        As I remember this study as described on public radio last week, there were comparisons to incandescent lights, and also an interview with someone who had studied the effect of difference in color temperature and filtered frequencies.

        My night time reading? Mostly halogen lamp and e-ink. Previously LCD and green backlight. I have still not found any device tha

        • by ballpoint (192660)

          There's no difference in light output by a lamp with the same technology and the same power but with a different voltage. Or were you trying to be funny or sarcastic ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Cato (8296)

      Yes, this is really junk science, but I believe there are other studies that show similar results - see http://stereopsis.com/flux/research.html [stereopsis.com] for a list, including links to the full papers (the site is for F.Lux which I really recommend to adjust colour temperature to get more sleep, for Windows, Mac and Linux, and jailbroken iOS).

  • N = 13? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schitso (2541028) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:05PM (#41144775)
    Should this even be considered relevant?
    • Re:N = 13? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by anom (809433) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:29PM (#41144923)

      Furthermore, why didn't they just use actual backlit displays instead of some approximation? It's not like there is a shortage of them.

      • Re:N = 13? (Score:4, Informative)

        by MagusSlurpy (592575) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:51PM (#41145059) Homepage

        Because they wanted to control the exposure. People use tablets differently. Different distances, different brightnesses, different sized font (larger black letters means less light emitted), different tablets=different displays=different wavelengths emitted.

        Too small of a group, but an interesting start.

        • There are quite some good studies into how light triggers sleeping patterns and causes or prevents winter depression and all that. With a tablet, you usually will be exposing little more than the retina around your "yellow spot" while with using lenses and all, I think you might be exposing a lot more of the peripheral areas of your retina as well. There could be a significant difference in how that influences your melatonin levels. Yes, it's true that the amount of "blueish" light over a certain threshold
          • Well, one of the things to consider when comparing tablets, monitors, and TVs is the percentage of light hitting the retina. While monitors and TVs have more area and thus put out more light than tablets, they are much farther away. For example right now my 19" work monitor is an arm's-length away (~3 feet), while a tablet will be a foot, maybe less, from my eyes. So even though a 10" tablet has a fifth of the area, under the inverse square law I'm actually getting twice the light hitting my eyes. And T

      • No kidding. I was thinking shenanigans for not using actual devices, let alone a ridiculously insignificant sample size. Sharp must be running low on funds. That study couldn't have cost more than a few thousand to conduct, even paying the grad students to do it. That's about two weeks worth of work ... 13 participants and no devices. Pffff! No wonder some people laugh at science when they have such poor examples to point at.
      • by Mista2 (1093071)

        Control the conditions accurately, and limit the variable to the amount of light, not the content.
        Reading RSS feeds for 2 hours might keep you much more stimulated than watching a movie, or podcast, or reading an ebook.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      You can't determine statistical significance by looking solely at the sample size. There's actual math involved, and they did that math.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by bgeezus (1252178)
      Nice one... you should have been a coauthor of this paper: Ten ironic rules for non-statistical reviewers [doi.org] by Karl Friston.

      As an expert reviewer, it is sometimes necessary to ensure a paper is rejected. This can sometimes be achieved by highlighting improper statistical practice. This technical note provides guidance on how to critique the statistical analysis of neuroimaging studies to maximise the chance that the paper will be declined. We will review a series of critiques that can be applied universally to any neuroimaging paper and consider responses to potential rebuttals that reviewers might encounter from authors or editors.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Should this even be considered relevant?

      Depends what you're using the results for.

      If you're arguing that it's too small to be definitive, you're right. It's too small to generalize to the general population.

      However, if it's an initial study to see if there *might* be something worth studying (people have been arguing that exposure to screens before bed ruins sleep, after all), then a small sample might be fine to see if it's even worth studying. Rather than spend lots of money studying lots of people and co

    • To be fair, the phase response curve is well known and well understood. If 100% of your 13 people saw shifts in it, I think you could have a statistically significant result. You could for instance say that there's a 95% chance that at least 80% of people are so affected, assuming your sample was properly diversified. And of course it's not enough to say "proven beyond any shadow of a doubt" but it's certainly enough to say "that's funny..." which is the more interesting result to an experiment anyway.

  • I can attest... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suprcvic (684521) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:08PM (#41144795)
    I've found that over the last year or so I've had trouble falling asleep and getting deep restful sleep. I started getting off the computer about an hour before I plan to go to bed, taking 3mg of Melatonin and reading a book. Now I'm getting the best sleep I've ever had. On that note, good night.
    • Yah the melatonin helps you sleep but the zombie nightmares get much more realistic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by baker_tony (621742)

      Haha, solution is to pop a pill. I take it you're an American? No offence, but that seems to be the American way...

  • by ewg (158266) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:08PM (#41144799)

    I'll worry about this in the morning.

  • by thesupraman (179040) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:08PM (#41144803)

    In breaking news:

    "Researchers have discovered that relatively little exposure to television and other electronics with backlit displays can keep people up at night by messing with their circadian rhythms."

    "Researchers have discovered that relatively little exposure to home lighting can keep people up at night by messing with their circadian rhythms."

    And finally:

    "Researchers have discovered tha tspending too much time reading obvious 'scientific' reports can keep people up at night by messing with their circadian rhythms."

    • by jsepeta (412566)

      I would guess that reading the results of scientific tests would help one to fall asleep.

  • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:11PM (#41144819)

    I think all /.ers have known this since about age 15. I used to go into a phase where I'd be up every night later and later until I was going to sleep at 6AM and waking up at 2PM. Eventually I'd lose a day and "reset" to a normal time only to inch back later ...

    Anyway, here's a plug for the awesomesuace that is f.lux [stereopsis.com], which removes the blue hues from your monitor (since blue light is more associated with circadian rhythm than red) when it's supposed to be night. I am not associated with the makers of f.lux in any way except being a hopeless devotee and mentioning them to anyone within earshot that mentions difficult keeping a normal sleep cycle.

    • by ad1217 (2418196) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:26PM (#41144907)
      I would also say that F.lux (or Redshift for Linux, which works about the same, but is less buggy) is extremely helpful, though I use it because the red tint does not hurt my eyes as much.
    • by Trogre (513942) on Monday August 27, 2012 @11:12PM (#41145185) Homepage

      This.

      Not that I use f.lux, but the GPL'd Redshift [jonls.dk] on my laptop. When switching it on, it feels like my eyes breathe a sigh of relief - it really is much easier to read off a red-orange-tinted surface at night.

      Now if only they'd port it to Android.

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        There are a number of 'night mode' apps available for Android. ... though, for the life of me, I can't seem to find any of them. I know for fact I had some installed on at least one of my phones since ICS came out.

      • by hankwang (413283)

        Now if only they'd port it to Android.

        Lux for Android is an auto-screen dimmer, but it also has a 'night' mode with red hues. The red mode is not in the free version, so it will set you back 1 or 2 dollars.

        That said, in the evening, I usually read in bed from my Android screen with low brightness and the lights off, and usually I will fall asleep within half an hour; I don't use the 'red mode' for that.

    • I am not associated with the makers of f.lux in any way except being a hopeless devotee and mentioning them to anyone within earshot that mentions difficult keeping a normal sleep cycle.

      Thanks, I am trying this out now.

    • by Cato (8296)

      F.lux is great, works on Windows, Mac and (jailbroken) iOS. One of the downsides of iOS devices as e-readers is that you have to jailbreak to get f.lux installed and not change your sleep cycle.

      There's also XFlux, but I use Redshift too on Linux - http://www.ubuntu-inside.me/2009/03/flux-better-lighting-for-your-computer.html [ubuntu-inside.me]

      [[http://stereopsis.com/flux/ios.html Now on iOS]] for jailbroken devices - see [[iPhone]] for jailbreaking.

      Discussion: http://forum.koohii.com/viewtopic.php?id=5347&p=1 [koohii.com]

      Blue light

  • Uh, yeah. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:16PM (#41144847) Journal

    Exposure to light can reduce production of a hormone known to have its production reduced by exposure to light.

    • The difference is that the researchers studied the effects of back lit display light, vs indoor incandescent light, candle light, fireplaces, outdoor camp fires, or cave entrance torches...

      What I mean is that they lack control groups something fierce.

    • by dkf (304284)

      Exposure to light can reduce production of a hormone known to have its production reduced by exposure to light.

      Not just that. Backlit displays tend to be more blue in color than most home lighting, which is the part of the spectrum that most affects melatonin production (a reasonably well-known effect). Which puts this all in "No shit, Sherlock" territory. Or an undergraduate project.

  • by deatypoo (1837038) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:17PM (#41144853)
    The first rule or Tautology Club is the first rule of Tautology Club http://xkcd.com/703/ [xkcd.com]
    • by pubwvj (1045960)

      I thought it was:

      The first rule of the Tautology club is the Tautology club's first rule.

  • by ThorGod (456163) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:24PM (#41144897) Journal

    Not sure about the sample size...but the Institute backing the research looks reputable enough. (Yes, that matters.)

    Anecdotally, I've been turning my TVs and monitors' backlights down after 5 pm for months now. I'm definitely able to get to sleep more easily than leaving monitors at full brightness.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:35PM (#41144959) Journal

    So, any word on how many man-years of sleep have been pointlessly destroyed by the fact that blue LEDs are now cheap and 'cool' enough to include in assorted consumer electronics devices where low-power greens used to be used?

    Maybe I'm just turning into a cranky old guy in my old age; but the old, dim, reds, ambers, and greens in various blinkenlight panels were downright soothing. Now you plug something in(even something designed to be pointed at a movie-watcher's face, FFS) and odds are that a blinding blue point source will burn a hole in your retina. Even a boring domestic-grade pile o' networking gear can put out enough light to read by at night.

    • That is actually slowly coming around again. Expensive electronics makers have realized that blue is getting rather overdone and they can look different by not doing it. My Denon receiver uses a red/green light for standby/on and a white display. My NEC monitor does have a blue power light, marketing probably insisted, but you can also change it to be green instead, and change the brightness.

      One thing that annoys the hell out of me about the blue LEDs these days is that the manufactures don't seem to apprec

  • My circadian rhythms flat-lined a long time ago. Years of video games, late night programming, and 2am change windows. Sleep is for the under-caffeinated.
  • ...Is it just me, or is this story posted every year or two? I thought this was a very well phenomenon by this point...

  • the constant pressure to pass tests in classrooms of ever increasing size, cutting back and eliminating PE, adding large fees to sports activities, or getting the kids up at 6am because the buses come at 6:45am to get 'em there by 8. Nope. It's the frickin' iPad that's at fault for kids not sleeping...
  • The f.lux program for Windows sits in the system tray and continuously adjusts the blue component of the display based on the time of day.

    http://stereopsis.com/flux/ [stereopsis.com]

    You can also dose with melatonin caplets a little while before you know you want to sleep.

    • I can't prove anything outright, but I feel that using f.lux has helped me sleep more easily. On Linux I use redshift [jonls.dk].

      If you set it to the slow transition speed (1 hour), the change is imperceptible. Until you try turning it off, that is. The difference is amazing.

  • Where is my 19" eInk display already?

  • Now I can stay up longer and write more code.

  • ...when they invent non-backlit tablets that can play porn, let me know!

  • Personally, one of the first things I did on my XP system was change that infernal blue color scheme. Olive is so much easier on the eyes. (Yes, changed the wallpaper too.) Likewise I found my android tablet never went dark enough so I turned off Auto brightness - even in daylight I prefer it darker than they set it. (Even at minimum brightness I wish I could turn it down further at night.)

  • They did not compare Backlit displays to front lit displays or edge lit displays, so therefore their findings that Back Lit displays are at fault is 100% useless.

    I'm betting it's the same old long known knowledge that exposure to bright light will disrupt sleep patterns, they have known this since the 40's.

    • by arth1 (260657)

      I'm betting it's the same old long known knowledge that exposure to bright light will disrupt sleep patterns, they have known this since the 40's.

      The 40 ADs, you mean? Probably longer than that.
      People have lived north of the polar circle for thousands of years, and dealt with this phenomenon as part of their daily (no pun intended) lives.

  • Well, that a scientific explanation of what I have observed some time ago: sleeping in after reading/etc on PC is harder compared to sleeping in after reading a book or e-book off e-Ink device.

    Was also one of the reasons why I have abandoned long in past the night time TV: it just felt unnatural - and tiring - how it kept me up for no apparent reason.

    Probably it is the same reason why I strongly prefer color schemes with dark background for the OS/applications on the PC.

  • Always a good idea after late night video games. Much better than not playing them anyways :-)

  • Exposure to Backlit Displays Reduces Melatonin Production

    At first glance, I thought it said "melanin production" and thought, "Well, that explains the Republican Party."

  • Really? You think? Most people have known about this phenomon, if not the mechanic, for years. That why they tell people "dont use a computer right before you plan to sleep". or recommend reading a book for 10-20 minutes afterward if you do, to re-relax you.

    !News.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

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