Lighting Up the Internet

by Michael Mullaney on September 13, 2012

A new study from professor Mariana Figueiro at the Rensselaer Lighting Research Center is lighting up the Internet with news that nobody wants to hear: your phone, computer, tablet, and other back-lit devices may be keeping you awake at night.

Here’s why: Looking at a back-lit display for two hours can trick your brain into producing less melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate our internal clocks. Essentially, since your eyes are looking at a bright screen, your brain thinks it’s still early and puts off getting ready for bed. Sadly, this kind of disruption to our circadian rhythms has been implicated in all sorts of nastiness including sleep disturbances and increased risk for diabetes and obesity.

A step in the right direction, says Figueiro, would be electronic displays that could increase or decrease circadian stimulation depending on the time of day—specific settings and types of light to provide less stimulation in the evening and set the stage for a better night’s sleep, and specific settings and types of light to provide more stimulation in the morning and encourage alertness.

Tech blog Mashable created the above video about the study. Additionally, everyone from the New York Times and LA Times to the Daily Mail, Times of India, and Huffington Post have written about it. There’s also a nice local piece by the Times Union.

Check out this older post (and video!) on Figueiro’s work: Night Owls Need More Blue Rays