Rearchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston, Massachusetts, have found that exposure to short wavelength blue light during the biological day directly and immediately improves alertness and performance.
Blue Light has an "Alerting" Effect
"Our previous research has shown that blue light is able to improve alertness during the night, but our new data demonstrates that these effects also extend to daytime light exposure," said Shadab Rahman, PhD, a researcher in BWH's Division of Sleep Medicine and lead author of this study. "These findings demonstrate that prolonged blue light exposure during the day has an an alerting effect."
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The researchers found that participants exposed to blue light consistently rated themselves as less sleepy, had quicker reaction times and fewer lapses of attention during the performance tests compared to those who were exposed to green light. They also showed changes in brain activity patterns that indicated a more alert state.
"These results contribute to our understanding of how light impacts the brain and open up a new range of possibilities for using light to improve human alertness, productivity and safety," explained Steven Lockley, PhD, neuroscientist at BWH and senior investigator of the study. "While helping to improve alertness in night workers has obvious safety benefits, day shift workers may also benefit from better quality lighting that would not only help them see better but also make them more alert."
Researchers note that the next big challenge is to figure out how to deliver better lighting. While natural light is ideal, many people do not have access to daylight in their schools, homes or work places. In addition to improvements in daylight access, the advent of new, more controllable lighting technologies may help enable researchers to develop 'smart' lighting systems designed to maximize the beneficial effects of light for human health, productivity and safety.
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Story Source: Shadab A. Rahman, Erin E. Flynn-Evans, Daniel Aeschbach, George C. Brainard, Charles A. Czeisler, Steven W. Lockley. Diurnal Spectral Sensitivity of the Acute Alerting Effects of Light. SLEEP, 2014