February 17, 2010
Poor Teen Sleeping Due To Lack Of Blue Light?

Our technological civilization is depriving kids of the short wavelength light they need to produce enough melatonin.

In the study just published in Neuroendocrinology Letters, Dr. Figueiro and LRC Director Dr. Mark Rea found that eleven 8th grade students who wore special glasses to prevent short-wavelength (blue) morning light from reaching their eyes experienced a 30-minute delay in sleep onset by the end of the 5-day study.

If you want to go to bed later and wake up later then wear glasses that block the blue light frequencies in the morning.

"If you remove blue light in the morning, it delays the onset of melatonin, the hormone that indicates to the body when it's nighttime," explains Dr. Figueiro. "Our study shows melatonin onset was delayed by about 6 minutes each day the teens were restricted from blue light. Sleep onset typically occurs about 2 hours after melatonin onset."

The kids need more blue light in their classrooms in the morning to get their melatonin production and circadian cycle working correctly.

The problem is that today's middle and high schools have rigid schedules requiring teenagers to be in school very early in the morning. These students are likely to miss the morning light because they are often traveling to and arriving at school before the sun is up or as it's just rising. "This disrupts the connection between daily biological rhythms, called circadian rhythms, and the earth's natural 24-hour light/dark cycle," explains Dr. Figueiro.

In addition, the schools are not likely providing adequate electric light or daylight to stimulate this biological or circadian system, which regulates body temperature, alertness, appetite, hormones and sleep patterns. Our biological system responds to light much differently than our visual system. It is much more sensitive to blue light. Therefore, having enough light in the classroom to read and study does not guarantee that there is sufficient light to stimulate our biological system.

"According to our study, however, the situation in schools can be changed rapidly by the conscious delivery of daylight, which is saturated with short-wavelength, or blue, light," reports Dr. Figueiro.

Anyone use a sort of light alarm clock where a really bright light comes on in your bedroom to help you wake up in the morning? I've thought of trying one. Might help to get going in the morning, especially in winter.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 February 17 07:10 PM  Brain Sleep

Bob Badour said at February 17, 2010 8:22 PM:
Anyone use a sort of light alarm clock where a really bright light comes on in your bedroom to help you wake up in the morning?

Sort of. I sleep on the east side of the house in a room without curtains. But usually, Rosie wakes me up shortly after 10am, and the sun has been up for hours by then.

Lono said at February 18, 2010 7:32 AM:

Doesn't this add some creedence to the use of the full spectrum flourecent lighting that is being pushed by naturalists lately?

Wouldn't using these in the classrooms provide the needed spectrum to stimulate wakefullness?

Brian said at February 18, 2010 7:57 AM:

I have a broad spectrum light intended for SAD on a timer that comes on about 30 minutes before my scheduled wakeup time. The combination of light, and melatonin in the evening has been quite helpful, I rarely oversleep and am more alert during the day. Living in Seattle and working indoors, especially during the winters natural light is scarce. Difficulty both getting to sleep and waking up have been a lifelong challenge. My spouse does not have the same challenge however so the effect is not purely environmental.

bfiwcg8ig2 said at February 18, 2010 2:46 PM:

"Anyone use a sort of light alarm clock where a really bright light comes on in your bedroom to help you wake up in the morning?"

I hate noises, so when I needed an alarm clock I would use an appliance timer connected to an architect's lamp leaning over my bed. At the set time, the light would go on and I'd know it was time to get up without having to hear noise. Actually the timer did click once as it went on but I preferred it over an alarm clock or a clock radio.

Leigh said at February 18, 2010 2:47 PM:

They're called dawn simulators, and yes, I've used one for years. Worth every penny.

Jimbo said at February 18, 2010 2:50 PM:

Philips goLITE BLU

haven't tried it yet, but the comments seem to agree with your post...

Andrew said at February 18, 2010 2:53 PM:

I think I saw this concept in an episode of a very short-lived TV series called "The Phoenix" that aired for less than half-a-season in the late 70s/early 80s. Short Version: Khan's right hand man (from "the Wrath of Khan") travelled around the country, telling people they needed to add "more red" or "more blue" to make their greenhouses thrive, while fighting crime on the side.

Written without consulting IMDB or Wikipedia.

Joe Hooker said at February 18, 2010 4:24 PM:

The solution is obvious -- sleep at K-Mart!

stephen frederick said at February 18, 2010 5:26 PM:

yes, i do. i bot a light therapy box about 7 years ago from this company in alaska. it's called northern lights. i live in chicago and the winter months are brutal. so i have the light on a timer and use it as an alarm clock. there is no doubt that it makes a difference. having it on in the morning definitely makes me more awake. i highly recommend one if you dont get enough sunlight.

Tristero said at February 18, 2010 6:05 PM:

My adult daughter has been a bear this winter, due to dissatisfaction with her job and what she finally came to recognize was some sort of sensitivity to the lack of light during the winter months. She bought some sort of bright-light alarm clock to get up with in the morning, and has been using it for about the past month, and she's become a different person. She lives in a different city, so I don't know any specifics about the type of light, but my wife, who talks to her daily on the phone, says that she's convinced the light has made the difference, and that it's been very dramatic.

Keith said at February 18, 2010 6:13 PM:

Here's my take on the human lifecycle and sleep (remember people, you heard it here first.)

The answer lies in humanity's early hunter-gather sleep cycle. In order to survive the time of our most supreme vulnerability--being asleep at night--somebody has to be awake to keep watch and maintain the fires burning to ward off the big mean things lurking in the shadows.

So we've developed different sleep cycles based on the natural tribal unit--the family. Children and parents tend to wake up with the sun, and children (thankfully) go to bed early, giving their parents a chance to catch up with things. These parents then naturally get sleepy in the late evening. But as they sack out, the older children are still wide awake and chat away until two or three o'clock in the morning when they finally get tired and drift off. Now, who suddenly gets fidgity and starts rattling around? Grandpa, who serves double duty by being awake for the wee hours and--prior to that--snoring like a hairy, pissed-off cave bear.

Believe me, there's not a bad-ass sabortooth in the world that would dare enter my grandpa's room when he got going.

KoacNation said at February 18, 2010 8:19 PM:

I dont say this melodramatically, a dawn simulator changed my life. You wake up, not necessarily ready to go run laps, but that groggy, "I'd rather die than get up" feeling" is replaced with a very indifferent, "oh, so it's morning, okay, whatever, time to get up" feeling. Someone here said it was worth every penny, I say they're worth more. And you dont need to buy the Mercedes Benz of dawn simulators, there's one for $30 on the web (not gonna link it so this is not seen as a plug for the company) where you just plug your lamp into the gizmo, and the gizmo into the wall socket 8 hours before you want the light to be fully on. So, ya, ya gotta reset it each Sunday night for the work week, but others will cost you $75 or more for fancy daily settings. Pick your poison I guess. But bottom line is, I dont know how the world has not converted to these types of alarm clocks. Consider going back to pre-DVR days for your TV? Never, right? I feel even more strongly about my dawn simulator. I didnt believe it would work either, so I set my radio alarm to go off 15 minutes after full light, and I'm always awake before the radio and feeling like "why bother to stay in bed, time to get up" I may not be the most eloquent supporter of these things, but you'll wonder how you lived without em. Of course, there biggest impact is during the winter months, so getting one now may not make too much of a difference unless you usually wake up before the sun in the summer. Best of luck to all, if you hate your current alarm clock and hate mornings, isnt it worth $35 bucks or so to perhaps not be miserable each morning?

Charles Collins said at February 19, 2010 1:25 AM:

One word: Recess! Let the kids (even in high school) out in the yard for 1/2 hour after their first or second class.

Jamie said at February 19, 2010 4:46 AM:

Brian, above: we bought one of those daylight-simulator alarms when we lived in Seattle too - a lifesaver! I HIGHLY recommend them. In fact, though we no longer live quite so far north, it's high time we got another one for the winter months (ours died a tragic death some years back), and a second one for our middle-schooler.

DJ said at February 19, 2010 6:45 AM:

I very much endorse this idea. I've used them for about ten years for two reasons. First is because the blue light and the sunlight early in the day helps a lot with seasonal depression in winter. Second is because it's a great luxury to wake up slowly, over a period of 20 or 30 minutes. It gives my brain and body time to adjust their cycles. And it's much more comfortable than having a noisy alarm clock slam you awake before dawn.

I'm using a dawn simulator with a big incandescent bulb in a spot lamp about eight feet away from my bed. The daylight bulbs are very heavy in the blue light spectrum. Fluorescent won't work because in this because they don't work well with dimmer switches. The dawn simulator is basically a timer with a dimmer switch that rolls from no power to full power and then back down over 40 or 50 minutes. Whether you spend $50 or $150, it's well worthwhile.

Among the cows in Iowa said at February 19, 2010 11:00 AM:

You can buy dimmable compact fluorescent bulbs, but they do not have the same response curve as incandescents.

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