The Fight for eReaders!
I know, eBooks are the latest and greatness thing. I enjoyed eBooks myself until I started getting migraines every day. My vision would get blurry while reading. I hated it because I would be so invested in a story and my mind would feel so awake. I wanted to take in more, but I just couldn't handle the migraines. They were so bad that I had a difficult time getting any sleep. I was suffering from insomnia. I would get around 3-4 hours of sleep each night. This would make working a long shift dreadful. I work in the medical field as a registered nurse, and this led me to think that maybe the lack of sleep that I was experiencing could be related to all of the eReading that I was doing. I put my nursing cap on and started to investigate various health journals. There was one that really caught my eye because I was talking to a friend recently about how I had started taking melatonin to help me go to sleep. The journal (https://www.pnas.org/content/112/4/1232 ) talked about how melatonin was being decreased in our bodies specifically by using eReaders. I decided to explore more on this subject and this is what I found.
The experiment used a random selection of people and split them half and half. One group read in the evenings before bed with an eReader, and the other group used a physical book. The results of the test were outstanding. The group that read by eReaders produced less melatonin in the body, awoke sleepier, and took longer in the mornings to become fully alert. The group that read by a physical book experienced the complete opposite of the previous group. Melatonin levels were determined by administered blood tests, EEG (Electroencephalography – which measures brain wave activity), and subjectively questioning the participants on how they felt after waking up. “Our findings provide evidence that the electric light to which we are exposed between dusk and bedtime has profound biological effects” (Chang et al., PNAS). There is also a greater impact on the youth, which can cause long term effects that still need to be tested. “Because technology use in the hours before bedtime is most prevalent in children and adolescents, physiological studies on the impact of such light exposure on both learning and development are needed” (Chang et al., PNAS). This is only a summarization of the experiment, but the main idea is that we need to decrease our evening screen time in order to help with our sleep cycles. I was hoping for the end result to be “fewer migraines”, not “less eReading.” I wasn’t satisfied with their advice, so I decided to do some web browsing to see what I could do to help my situation.
I found a few solutions that positively impacted me. First, when using my eBook, I dimmed the brightness of my screen and changed the background to dark mode to decrease the amount of direct lighting to my eyes. Next, I increased the font to a desirable size in order to reduce squinting. Thirdly, I took frequent breaks and walked around to give my eyes a break from consistently focusing on the dimly lit text. Finally, I improved my posture and level of comfortability because before I was leaning over to read. The bad posture would cause me to develop neck strain. Implementing all of these steps helped me more than I could have imagined. Best of all is that these are all things we can do WITHOUT SPENDING EXTRA MONEY! Sure, you can go buy those fancy, blue light blocking glasses, or you can just make a few adjustments to what you are already doing without paying a dime. Another way to reduce our unnecessary eye strain is by using audiobooks. I know, some people are on the fence about using audiobooks, but it is an alternative to staring at a screen for hours and the negative health effects that come with it. There are audiobook sites, such as Libro.fm that support indie book stores that you can use.
I know it has been a great help to me because I haven’t had any migraines since making these few adjustments to my reading habits. Please use these tips to help prevent migraines, decrease eye strain due to large amounts of direct light, and increase your average amount of sleep. I hope that this article has been informative and helpful.
Interesting read! I would be curious to know what kind of e-readers were used in the study. Were they reading on actual e-ink readers which are supposed to simulate reading paper, or were they reading on a Kindle Fire, iPad, or something similar that has an actual digital screen. My understanding is there’s a difference in how your eyes and brain react to the two, but I haven’t seen a study that confirms or refutes. I suffer from migraines infrequently so I’ll start paying attention to see if using an e-reader is a trigger.
Woah! Thanks so much for sharing this! This all makes so much sense. With the Kindle paper white, I have my brightness all the way down to help with this. But even then, I don’t love reading on an ereader before bed, or looking at any screens for that matter!
I’m also a sucker for the blue light glasses! I ordered a $20 pair last year and use them during my day job where I literally stare at a screen all day long. It’s helped with my headaches immensely! I love your tip about taking breaks… that’s definitely important!