Thursday, March 19, 2009

Waking up Teens -- Scientists Show Blue Light Can Help Reset Sleep Cycle

Waking up Teens -- Scientists Show Blue Light Can Help Reset Sleep Cycle

Lighting scientists have found a quick fix to the internal and external alarm clock miscommunication -- a blue light. "If you apply the light after your minimum core body temperature, you're going to advance the clock so you're going to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier the next cycle," Figueiro says. The minimum core body temperature is reached about two hours before a person naturally wakes up.

"When you get the teenager up, outdoors, waiting for the school bus at 7 o'clock in the morning, they may be getting light at the wrong phase," Figueiro says. This exposes teens to natural blue light too early. By wearing the goggles when teens wake up, blue light is blocked out. Then, later in the morning -- after their minimum core body temperature is reached -- teens can reset their internal clocks by being out in the light.

Blue light exposure worked quickly for Erin. She's now able to fall asleep by 10:30.

An easy way schools can help is by giving students a quick mid-morning break to go outside or put blue LEDs around computer screens in classrooms. By getting enough blue light at the right time, sleep patterns can not only be changed in teens, but also in the elderly and shift workers.

BACKGROUND: Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are studying how light -- especially blue light -- affects our body's daily rhythms. By getting enough blue light at the right time and blocking it out at others, it is possible to correct distorted sleep patters for the elderly (who tend to wake up too early), teenagers (whose internal clock is usually set for late nights and sleep-in mornings), and shift workers.

In this article they have the teens wearing red glasses until mid morning, to avoid blue light first thing upon waking. They then prescribe blue light exposure later on in the morning.

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