Blue light helps the body clock tick

July 21, 2020

Flooding the night with light affects the human production of melatonin – a hormone that helps regulate sleep.

While we rely on electric light bulbs, television screens and mobile devices, they also break our body’s innate links to bright sunlit days and dark nights, perhaps dimly illuminated by the moon and stars, and often cost us sleep. 

That sleep loss doesn’t come cheap: inadequate shut-eye cost the Australian economy $66.3 billion in 2016-17 through a loss of wellbeing and productivity.

Flooding the night with light affects the human production of melatonin – a hormone that helps regulate sleep. However, new research from the Alertness CRC shows the brightness of artificial light is not the main problem — it’s the amount of blue light in a light source that most impacts our internal clocks.

“High dosages of electric light at night can be very confusing for the body clock and leads to disrupted sleep that, over time, affects people’s health and mood,” says Monash University neuroscientist Associate Professor Sean Cain, a circadian rhythms expert. This is partly why many long-term shift workers experience health issues, he adds.

“At the same time, we need people to be alert at work, particularly when they are operating in safety-critical roles, so that’s when exposure to more blue light becomes important.”

The Alertness CRC, in collaboration with Australian SME Versalux Lighting Systems and Monash University, have developed MelaGen™ — LEDs that can be programmed to vary blue light content across any single building environment. This dynamic approach regulates visual and non-visual light to maximise wellbeing.

“MelaGen™ can assist in resetting circadian rhythms and promoting good quality sleep,” says Vince Macri, National Product Manager, Healthcare at Versalux.

He says the MelaGen™ system can also enhance vision and improve health, safety, performance and wellbeing in the workplace. — Brendan Fitzpatrick

AlertnessCRC.com

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