Experts often recommend keeping smartphones and tablets out of the bedroom to improve sleep quality. While this practice may be optimal, it’s likely many people remain connected up until bedtime. Are they doomed to a life of inadequate sleep? Maybe not, say scientists from the Mayo Clinic.

According to research presented in June at SLEEP 2013, the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting in Baltimore, using devices just before bed was thought to be a concern primarily because of the light that screens emit. The worry was that this light could disrupt the release of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. However, the Mayo Clinic scientists say that this may be a problem only when devices are set to their greatest level of brightness. Working in a dark room, the researchers used a meter to measure light emissions from two tablets and a smartphone set at different levels of brightness.

They discovered that when the devices were dimmed and held about 14 inches away from the meter, the risk of disrupting melatonin secretion decreased.

“There’s a lot of concern about using mobile devices, and that prompted me to wonder, are they always a negative factor for sleep?” said study co-author Lois Krahn, MD, psychiatrist and sleep expert at the Mayo Clinic. “We found that only at the highest setting was the light over a conservative threshold that might affect melatonin levels. If it’s at the mid setting or at a low setting, it’s bright enough to use.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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