Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Night Reading and E-Reading: Ne'er the Twain Shall Meet

I am a fan of the electronic reader. I keep my Kindle with me at all times — one never knows when the need to read shall arise. A quiet lunch? A visit to the doctor's office? Unexpected downtime? All those and more translate into extra reading time, and I am glad I have my choice of books.

I also keep my magazines on it so I'm never without a New Yorker. (Hey, I've got to be prepared for every contingency.)

However, there's a limit to how I will use an e-book.

Now, I didn't understand my limitations until recently, more than a year after I started loading my Kindle — and, now, my iPad (thank you, Kindle Reader app!).

My limitation is simple, but clear: I will not take my Kindle to bed.

Oh, I may work like a demon on my computer until 2 am and I may Pinterest or BuzzFeed on my iPad until way later than I should; I am, after all, only human (despite evidence to the contrary).  Electronics are valuable. However, I always shut off the electronics when I climb between the covers.

Well, now. I must admit, I haven't always made that decision. Until recently, I had no issue with perusing my Kindle or iPad before picking up my book.

Then I realized I couldn't fall asleep.

There is evidence that the light from tablets suppresses melatonin, which can throw off a person's circadian rhythm.

That's science. Here's my own evidence: I don't fall asleep easily or quickly after using electronics with a screen. It takes me an hour or more after computer time before I  am ready to fall asleep.

Don't get me wrong: I am tired. I am weary. I am ready for the day to end. I want to fall asleep. I cannot, however, do that in front of a screen. To be fair, I cannot do it in front of a television, either: I can count on one hand the number of times I have fallen asleep while watching television. The screen hypnotizes me and keeps me awake long after my body is ready for bed.

The same, apparently, applies to tablet reading.

I will always carry and use paper books — not for the smell or heft, not for the comfort, not for the vast collection (sometimes exclusively) available in print. I don't do it because I don't want to battle for a plug in a hospital waiting room or bagel shop. I do it because I don't want to be tethered to a power source or to let the zombies know where I am at night, behind the glowing screen.

I will do it because until they build a "mousetrap" that lets this difficult sleeper fall asleep easily, I won't make my life any harder. E-books have their place — just not in my bed.

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