Skip the nighttime activity that can increase your cancer risk

Adequate, restful sleep is a requisite for proper immune system function. But a popular bedtime activity can disrupt the immune system’s defense against cancer.

A study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston shows that if you read from a computer screen, phone, iPad or another “light-emitting electronic device” (LE e-Book) in the hours before bedtime, your internal body clock that controls your circadian rhythms may be impacted. The result: decreased health and alertness.

“We found the body’s natural circadian rhythms were interrupted by the short-wavelength enriched light, otherwise known as blue light, from these electronic devices,” warns researcher Anne-Marie Chang, who is a neuroscientist in BWH’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders. “Participants reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock and reduced next-morning alertness than when reading a printed book.”

During this study people read LE e-Books for four hours before bed for five nights and then read hardcover books for the same amount of time for the next five nights.

The researchers found that reading LE e-books made it harder to fall asleep and suppressed the body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone which normally increases at night and induces sleepiness. Melatonin is also an important part of the body’s defense system against cancer.

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“In the past 50 years, there has been a decline in average sleep duration and quality,” says Charles Czeisler who is chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at BWH. “Since more people are choosing electronic devices for reading, communication and entertainment, particularly children and adolescents who already experience significant sleep loss, epidemiological research evaluating the long-term consequences of these devices on health and safety is urgently needed.”


Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.