Research proves that reading a physical book has a positive impact on our health and ability to both process and retain knowledge. On the other hand, studies show that technology like eBooks have a negative impact on learning, sleep and health. When you compare an eBook to a physical book, the conclusion is not as positive as you might expect.
While the consequences of reading on a Kobo, computer or smart phone, are not necessarily top of mind, this simple action is harder on your health than you would think. A University of Gothenburg study shows that excessive use of smart phones or computers can cause increased stress levels and depression. However, by comparison, reading a physical book can help your health and reduce stress levels. Cognitive neuropsychologist, Dr David Lewis, conducted a study in which people were tasked with completing high stress level activities. Once done, participants were tested with a variety of relaxation methods. Reading silently, for only six minutes, proved to work the best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent. The Gothenburg study has also proven excessive use of screens can cause sleep disorders.
Many people read before bed to wind down from their day, but reading on a bright screen can trigger the mind to stay awake. A study, done by Harvard Medical School, found it took longer to fall asleep when reading on a backlit eBook. This led to poorer sleep quality, lessening the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Melatonin is a small gland in the brain made by the pineal gland. It helps control sleep and wake cycles, which is why when the lights shut off at night, the optic nerve sends signals to the hypothalamus and melatonin is signalled to flood the brain and cue it to go to bed. Research has shown that people have less of a deep sleep when reading an eBook before bed. They were also more tired waking up the next morning. A poll conducted at American University has also proven that students did not concentrate well when they read on a screen.
It is true that eBooks are more portable than textbooks, however this technology puts a strain on the way students retain information. A professor at American University in Washington, D.C. conducted a poll among college students and found 92 per cent concentrated better when reading physical books. With a physical book there are no distracting links. This allows students to think about the information they just read. Physical books make it easier to focus and this can lead to better memory. In a printed text, you can read carefully and take time to think and study the material, but with eBooks you have to constantly scroll and may be distracted by the links to other websites.
Reading a physical book impacts our every day life. This is true with eBooks too. Backlit screens on mobile phones, tablets and computers are proven to cause stress, lack of sleep and lack of ability to process and retain information. While reading an old-fashioned book may seem a little out-dated, it is something that is better for our health and minds.