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LRC News

Summer 2009
Researchers Develop Light-Treatment Device to Improve Sleep Quality in the Elderly

In recent years, scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center and elsewhere have demonstrated that blue light is the most effective at stimulating the circadian system when combined with the appropriate light intensity, spatial distribution, timing, and duration. At the LRC, a team led by Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., has tested a goggle-like device designed to deliver blue light directly to the eyes to improve sleep quality in older adults.

Light-treatment gogglesA marked increase in daytime lighting levels can counteract the age-dependent losses in retinal light exposure by providing a stronger signal to the circadian system. However, the color and intensity of commercially available lighting systems, like those used in senior residences, assisted-living facilities, and nursing homes, are designed for visual effectiveness and minimal energy use and not necessarily efficacious for generating light to stimulate the older circadian system, according to Figueiro.

In this project, the light-treatment prototype tested by Figueiro’s team was developed by Topbulb.com, LLC, based on prior LRC light and health research. The device offers an alternative approach using specially designed goggles that deliver blue light spectrally tuned for optimum circadian response.

After only one hour of light exposure, the light-induced nocturnal melatonin suppression level of the subjects was about 35 percent for the low light level and about 60 percent for the high light level. In addition, the higher level of blue light suppressed nocturnal melatonin more quickly, to a greater extent over the course of the 90-minute exposure period, and was maintained after 60 minutes.

Having demonstrated its stimulation effect on the circadian system, the researchers believe the device could be subsequently used to increase sleep consolidation and efficiency in older subjects when worn for a prescribed duration at an appropriate time.

The full results of the study were recently published in Chronobiology International, Volume 26 Issue 4, 726. Learn more.


About the Lighting Research Center

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute of Troy, N.Y., and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. The LRC offers the world's premier graduate education in lighting, including one- and two-year master's programs and a Ph.D. program. Since 1988 the LRC has built an international reputation as a reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. The LRC also provides training programs for government agencies, utilities, contractors, lighting designers, and other lighting professionals. Visit http://www.lrc.rpi.edu.



Contact:lrcnewsletter@rpi.eduPhotos & Graphics:Dennis Guyon
Editor:Mary CimoWeb Production:Dennis Guyon
Contributing Writers:Jennifer Taylor, Mary Cimo, Dennis Guyon
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