PhotoA number of studies in recent years have shown that looking at a phone or tablet screen before bed causes sleeping problems. Many experts have even gone so far as to suggest banning electronic devices from the bedroom to ensure a better night’s sleep.

However, a new study shows that consumers may be able to look at screens before bed without consequence. The catch? All you have to do is get out and enjoy the sunshine during the day.

“Our main finding was that following daytime bright light exposure, evening use of a self-luminous tablet for two hours did not affect sleep in young healthy students,” said Frida Rångtell, first author of the study and at PhD student in the Department of Neuroscience at Uppsala University.

Mitigating blue light exposure

Researchers used 14 male and female participants to see how devices that emitted blue light affected sleep if used during evening hours. Each person was exposed to 6.5 hours of bright light during the daytime and then asked to read a novel on either a tablet or in book format at night. After a week of maintaining this schedule, participants switched roles and sleeping results were recorded.

After analyzing results at the end of the trial period, the researchers found that reading from a tablet had no negative effect on sleep quality.

“Our results suggest that light exposure during the day, e.g. by means of outdoor activities or light interventions in offices, may help combat sleep disturbances associated with evening blue light stimulation,” said senior author Christian Benedict.

Sleep disturbances still possible

The researchers caution, however, that sleep can still be disrupted by device use depending on what it is used for. For example, checking work email or tending to social media could have negative effects beyond exposure to blue light.

“It must however be kept in mind that utilizing electronic devices for the sake of checking your work e-mails or social network accounts before snoozing may lead to sleep disturbances as a result of emotional arousal,” said Benedict.

The full study has been published in the journal Sleep Medicine.


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