A growing number of studies and anecdotal evidence suggests a habit that many of us have may be harmful to our health: staring at mobile devices in dark rooms. NPR reported recently on a woman who had gone momentarily blind after using her smartphone for reading regularly in bed. Researchers found the trend more common than you might think, terming it “transient smartphone ‘blindness.’” The Daily Mail reported that others have experienced retinal detachment from using their smartphones in the dark—a trend confirmed by scientists who found that the condition is rising and could be caused by excessive phone use in dark conditions.
If these cases sound more extreme that what you’ve experienced, be aware that other more common health problems have also been potentially linked to using glowing screens at night. The Guardian reports on medical experts who warn that looking at a bright computer or smartphone screen after dark may lead to a number of health risks, from disrupted sleep to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, and depression.
In the report, The Guardian quotes the Director of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Charles Czeisler, who notes that when you suffer from long-term sleep loss, you’re at greater risk for multiple diseases. The sleep-deprived also have a 15 percent increased chance of death from all causes, when compared with their same-age peers who sleep well. The issue here is that the light from electronic devices tricks the body into thinking it is still daylight, which suppresses the natural hormone melatonin that your body needs to control its sleep-wake cycle.