Among other studies to prove that ebook reading harms our health – by,  for instance,- discouraging us from using our hands to lift heavy paperback blockbusters and our lower limbs to step into bookstores – the News Feed of The Bookseller in the UK has come up with a beauty: A study courtesy of Mediabistro which claims to demonstrate that “Smartphones and Computer Use Are Hurting Our Sleep.”

“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as quoted by Mediabistro. The cited study and its supporting materials then list all kinds of alarming statistics, courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation in the US and the wonderful infographic from Rasmussen College, to demonstrate, for instance, that 95 percent of an NSF poll use smartphones or screens just before bedtime, and 51 percent rarely or never get a good night’s sleep as a result.

I notice there’s no comparative study done on the damaging effects of reading lights over paper books at bedtime, though. After all, the sleep damage appears to hinge on “artificial light,” and aren’t those dinky little clip-on LED reading lights every bit as artificial as a smartphone, iPad or Kindle Fire screen? Isn’t a bedside reading lamp? But then, who could resist the temptation to run such a wonderful infographic, however pseudo-scientific?

And a confession – I’m sorry, I couldn’t find any actual evidence to justify the claim that ebooks make dogs sleep with cats. But I’m sure that if I wait long enough, The Bookseller will find it for me.



  1. What about the idiot box? It streams “artificial light” into watchers eyes and many many people probably participate in that activity an hour before bed. Or is it just reading text formed from artificial light that deteriorates sleep. In which case, it’s OK to watch TV before bed, but not foreign films with subtitles

  2. I don’t know about feeding the anti-ebook animus, but the notion of humanist anomalies such as the paper or screen book acting as determinants of life in the free world…is loony.

    “The real problem in the discussion on e-books versus paper books is the “versus”. The e-book is regarded as something that replaces the paper book, but it cannot do that, as it is a completely different phenomenon. They complement one another, but they cannot replace one another.” Kristina Lundblad

    cool…This is as conclusive a statement as you are likely to find. Aside from our old saw; “paper books are self-authenticating and screen books are self-indexing” there are daily reminders of the symbiosis. So we move on.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail