Saturday, September 19, 2015

The new science behind sleep

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” — Thomas Dekker, American actor and musician

I BOOKMARKED this New York Times article to share because it seems applicable to many of us, not just those with babies and small children. The emerging science behind sleep and wakefulness is fascinating. Who knew?!

High-Tech Lights to Help Baby Sleep, or Students Stay Alert

By Diane Cardwell
September 11, 2015

Like many expecting parents, Tracy Mizraki Kraft in Portola Valley, Calif., worried about how her newborn would sleep. So she paid attention when her doctor handed her a light bulb that he said would help her son do just that.

The small amber bulb, called Sleepy Baby, seemed to work well, she said, creating a soothing environment for Leo, now 16 months, as he drifted off to sleep.

For Ms. Mizraki Kraft, the bulb’s appeal was self-preservation. But it is part of a technological revolution coming to homes, offices, hotels and schools through lighting designed to undo the ill effects of artificial light — both overhead and on screen — and help regulate sleep, alertness and even people’s moods.

“Lighting is really not about a fixture in the ceiling anymore,” said Mariana Figueiro, who leads light and health research at the Lighting Research Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. “It’s about delivering individualized light treatments to people.”

Scientists have understood for years that different levels and colors of light can have powerful biological effects on humans. But that concept has been applied only with expensive bulbs — costing as much as $300,000 — for specialty applications like mimicking the 24-hour cycle for astronauts or treating jaundice in newborns.

Fredric Maxik of the Lighting Science Group,
the inventor of the Sleepy Baby bulb.
Now, with lighting technology, especially LEDs, becoming more sophisticated and less expensive, companies are developing so-called biological lighting for ordinary consumers.

The Lighting Science Group makes Sleepy Baby and is among the companies that are most devoted to the growing market for lighting to enhance rest or alertness, with bulbs like Good Night, and Awake and Alert.

But other companies, from start-ups to the biggest lighting manufacturers, have products promising similar results. General Electric announced this year that it would release a color-changing LED as part of its Align product line that is compatible with Apple’s HomeKit system and is meant to automate lighting according to the natural sleep cycle.

Two years ago, Philips introduced the Hue, a Wi-Fi-connected bulb compatible with Apple systems that offers “light recipes” conducive to waking up and winding down.

Digital Lumens, which makes and manages smart lighting systems for commercial and industrial settings, including supermarkets, is supplying lights for a study at Brown University aimed at controlling brightness and spectrum to promote learning among adolescents. And a company called LumiFi has an app to adjust lighting in homes and commercial spaces like hotels, with settings like Rest, Energize, Focus and Sexy.

“With these kinds of bulbs that are coming to the market, you can suddenly now put better lighting controls systems, very affordable, into the hands of everyone,” said Beatrice Witzgall, an architect and lighting designer who founded LumiFi. “It’s a big revolution.”

Companies are also focusing on a host of health applications for lighting, said Milos Todorovic, who leads bioelectronics research at Lux Research. Among these are changing a person’s mood and affecting actual physical processes inside the body, he said, including using light to enhance collagen regeneration to help heal wounds.

It’s all part of a goal — to undo, in effect, the damage that regular lighting has done to the body’s natural rhythms.

The new consumer-oriented bulbs, for example, are designed to regulate the body’s basic need to rest and wake up by stimulating receptors in the eyes that signal to the brain when it is time for bed and when it is time to go about the activities of the day.

When exposed to short-wavelength light, the blue end of the spectrum, those receptors suppress the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Click on this link to read the whole article.

No comments:

Post a Comment