The Best Gadgets for Late-Night Reading

I’ve noticed that the e-ink readers I’ve owned (a Sony Reader from a few years back, and now a Barnes and Nobles nook) just felt better when reading for long periods of time than my other gadgets. I own a Dell Latitude XT Tablet PC, for example, that has a very nice and sharp LED-backlit screen that I use for annotating PDFs and other sorts of documents, but I’ve noticed that it causes a fair amount of eyestrain compared to my nook. It’s a very subjective thing that might have a deal to do with my own sensitivity to bright light.

Apparently, some research has been done that shows that I’m not alone, particularly as gadgets are used for reading late at night. As CNN reports:

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.

"Potentially, yes, 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," said Phyllis Zee, a neuroscience professor at Northwestern University and director of the school’s Center for Sleep & Circadian Biology.

"And I think more importantly, it could also be sufficient to affect your circadian rhythm. This is the clock in your brain that determines when you sleep and when you wake up."

I’d experienced precisely this effect myself without precisely identifying the cause. Since I started ending my evening by an hour or so of reading on my nook, rather than using my Tablet PC for the same, I’ve noticed my sleep patterns improving. I fall asleep faster, and seem to get more rest.

So, if you’re looking for an device that will be used primarily for reading e-books, skip the iPad and get a nook (or a Kindle or Sony Reader). Your eyes will thank you.

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