Ban­ish the blue light bed­time brigade

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - HEALTH -

FOR the tech-ob­sessed who use their smart­phones, lap­tops and tablets right be­fore bed­time, a new study sug­gests in­ex­pen­sive am­ber-tinted glasses might guar­an­tee sound slum­ber.

The glasses block the blue-wave­length light emit­ted from many hi-tech de­vices. That light sup­presses the brain’s pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin, a hor­mone that reg­u­lates sleep and wake cy­cles.

In the study, re­searchers found that adults di­ag­nosed with in­som­nia got about 30 min­utes more sleep when wear­ing wrap-around am­ber lenses for two hours be­fore bed­time.

“We sus­pected blue-light ex­po­sure be­fore bed­time might con­trib­ute to sleep dif­fi­cul­ties or worsen sleep prob­lems in in­di­vid­u­als who al­ready had dif­fi­cul­ties, so we were not sur­prised there was an im­prove­ment in sleep qual­ity,” said study au­thor Ari Shechter.

He is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of med­i­cal sci­ences at Columbia Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­tre in New York City.

“These glasses are widely avail­able,” added Shechter, who has no fi­nan­cial stake in the find­ings.

In­som­nia symp­toms such as dif­fi­culty falling or stay­ing asleep, fre­quent awak­en­ing or dis­turbed sleep oc­cur in as many as a third to half of adults, ac­cord­ing to back­ground in­for­ma­tion in the study.

In ad­di­tion, an es­ti­mated 90% of Amer­i­cans use light-emit­ting electronic de­vices – such as tablets, smart­phones and com­put­ers – in the hour be­fore bed­time, de­spite the sleep-in­hibit­ing ef­fects of this blue-light ex­po­sure.

In the new study, 14 adults with chronic in­som­nia wore wrap-around, am­ber-tinted glasses or clear placebo glasses for two hours be­fore bed­time for seven con­sec­u­tive nights. Four weeks later, par­tic­i­pants re­peated the process with the other set of glasses.

In ad­di­tion to get­ting about half an hour more sleep on nights after wear­ing the am­ber lenses, par­tic­i­pants also re­ported bet­ter-qual­ity sleep and an over­all re­duc­tion in their in­som­nia symp­toms.

A slight re­duc­tion in the time it took am­ber lens-wear­ing par­tic­i­pants to fall asleep was noted, though it wasn’t sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant. “It is pos­si­ble the in­ter­ven­tion would be more ef­fec­tive in speed­ing up time to fall asleep in in­di­vid­u­als who have dif­fi­culty falling asleep as their chief sleep com­plaint,” Shechter said.

Many smart­phone screens can be ad­justed to emit am­ber in­stead of blue light, which would help re­duce in­som­nia symp­toms in those af­fected. Blue-wave­length light is also emit­ted from many light bulbs and LED light sources in­creas­ingly used in homes be­cause of their en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and cost-ef­fec­tive­ness, he noted.

“Now more than ever, we are ex­pos­ing our­selves to high amounts of blue-wave­length light be­fore bed­time, which may con­trib­ute to or worsen sleep prob­lems,” Shechter said.

“We be­lieve this to be an im­por­tant and timely study, as it de­scribes a safe, af­ford­able and eas­ily im­ple­mented in­ter­ven­tion for in­som­nia,” he added. Avoid­ing ex­po­sure to light fr

om light-emit­ting de­vices be­fore sleep would be the best ap­proach, but us­ing other tech­niques to block the blue light can help if use of the de­vices is go­ing to con­tinue,” said Shechter.

Dr Ra­man Mal­ho­tra, a spokesper­son for the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Sleep Medicine, wasn’t in­volved in the re­search but agreed with Shechter that the re­search should be repli­cated in larger num­bers of pa­tients with in­som­nia, pos­si­bly over longer pe­ri­ods.

Mal­ho­tra said some doc­tors were al­ready rec­om­mend­ing pa­tients with in­som­nia wear am­ber-tinted glasses be­fore bed­time, rea­son­ing there was lit­tle to lose.

“I look at cost or risk com­pared to pos­si­ble ben­e­fit, and in this case I feel cost and harm are min­i­mal com­pared to ben­e­fits in pa­tients’ sleep,” said Mal­ho­tra, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of neu­rol­ogy at the Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity Sleep Medicine Cen­tre in St Louis.

“Many peo­ple have trou­ble sleep­ing be­cause of the light from their de­vices, and this is a rea­son­able thing to use,” he added.

The study is sched­uled for pub­li­ca­tion in the Jan­uary is­sue of the Jour­nal of Psy­chi­atric Re­search. – New York Times

Blue-light ex­po­sure be­fore bed­time, from phones or com­puter screens, may ham­per sleep.

A slight re­duc­tion in the time it took am­ber lens-wear­ing par­tic­i­pants to fall asleep was noted, though it wasn’t sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant.

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