Lighting Research Center

Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment

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Light & Health

Light and AdolescentsAdolescents

Evidence supports the hypothesis that adolescents have a late circadian phase, as studies have shown that adolescents report going to bed later as they get older. With highly structured school settings requiring early rising, adolescents typically experience reduced sleep durations. Schools may not provide adequate daylight to stimulate teens' circadian systems early in the morning, especially in dark winter months. As teenagers spend more time indoors, they may miss out on essential morning light needed to stimulate their circadian systems. Their circadian systems can be further compromised by melatonin-reducing evening light from computer monitors.

The LRC has conducted several laboratory studies and field demonstrations to investigate the impact of light on adolescents. Some recent research projects regarding the effects light can have on adolescents are highlighted below.

General Research

Patterns to Daylight Schools for People and Sustainability pdf logo
The latest pattern book by LRC authors, sponsored by the U.S. Green Building Council, presents model designs for implementing daylighting into school classrooms, corridors, and gymnasiums. With emphasis on human health impact and other daylight metrics, this book compares cost, comfort, visual environment, and energy use among well-known daylighting techniques.

Sleep, Circadian Phase, and Performance

Completed research projects are listed below. Summaries of select research projects are linked in PDF format.

Exposure to Early Evening Daylight in Spring Creates Teenage Night Owls  pdf logo

Quantifying Impact of Lighting on K-12 Students' Performance and Well-being pdf logo

Short-wavelength (Blue) Light, Sleep/Wake Schedule, and Circadian Phase in Young Adults pdf logo

Light Mask May Help Teens Wake for School pdf logo

  • Electric Power Research Institute
  • Lighting Research Center

Effects of Light on Melatonin

 White Light's Effect on Melatonin in Adolescents and Older Adults pdf logo

  • Light and Health Alliance

Self-luminous Devices and Melatonin Suppression in Adolescents pdf logo

Light from Computer Monitors Can Impact Melatonin Levels in College Students

Media Coverage

LRC research on light and adolescents has been featured in various media reports. A select sampling is below. For more featured media, visit our Newsroom Media Page.

Sorry, Bedtime Readers: iPads Keep You Awake Even With Night Shift On
Fast Company - February 12, 2018
Exclusive with LRC Director Dr. Mariana Figueiro! New research shows that the "warm" screen color of Apple's Night Shift has a negligible impact on melatonin, although there could be a psychological effect, i.e., warm tones are cited as being more relaxing.

Is Blue Light Bad For Your Health?
WebMD Health News - June 19, 2017
Mariana Figueiro, PhD, light and health program director at the Lighting Research Center in Troy, NY, stresses that in addition to minimizing bright blue-hued light—especially from gadgets held close to the eyes—at night, we should try to maximize the amount of bright light we get during the day. “It not only makes you more awake and alert by day; research suggests it may also make you less sensitive to the negative health consequences of light at night,” she says.

Daily Wisdom: Morning sun can get you on a better sleep schedule
Furthermore - June 14, 2017
Interview with Dr. Mariana Figueiro, Professor and Light and Health Program Director at the Lighting Research Center. "Seek light during the day from any source, electric or daylight, especially in the morning," she advises.

Light at night may disrupt sleep and health
USA TODAY - January 22, 2017
These are among the darkest days of the year — or they would be, if we lived like our ancestors, with nothing but the stars and moon to light our way between sunset and sunrise.

SIL Conference session to focus on the effects of lighting on health
LEDs Magazine - November 11, 2016
At the upcoming Strategies in Light conference (Feb. 28 - March 2, 2017; Anaheim, CA) the lead speaker in the Non-Visual Effects of Lighting session will be Dr. Mariana Figueiro, LRC Light and Health Program Director. In this essay, Dr. Figueiro highlights some of the topics she will discuss in her SIL conference presentation, including healthy lighting for adolescents, older adults, office workers, and night-shift workers.

Apple's blue light special can help sleep, but not a panacea
San Francisco Chronicle - March 24, 2016
A generation of youth are training themselves to fall asleep with their mobile devices nearby. “I know these kids are going to hate me,” said Figueiro, “but the best thing to do to solve this problem is to simply stop using their devices about two hours before bedtime, because that’s when you start producing melatonin.”

Young and sleep deprived
APA Monitor on Psychology - February 2016
Research supports later school start times for teens’ mental health.

Why Students Need More Light For Better Sleep
The Huffington Post - Oct. 23, 2015
A panel discussion on the critical link between light, sleep and student performance, featuring LRC Director Mark Rea.

High-Tech Lights to Help Baby Sleep, or Students Stay Alert
The New York Times - Sept. 12, 2015
LRC Light & Health program director Mariana Figueiro is quoted in this excellent article by Diane Cardwell of The New York Times. "Lighting is really not about a fixture in the ceiling anymore," said Figueiro. "It's about delivering individualized light treatments to people."

To sleep, perchance.
The Economist - May 16, 2015
Screens before bedtime harm sleep. The effect is biggest for teenagers.

Babbage: LEDtime
The Economist - May 11, 2015
Mariana Figueiro's latest study on sleep and light from self-luminous devices is featured in this audio piece that was on the homepage of

TEDMED: Mariana Figueiro - May 5, 2015
How can we harness the power of light to improve health? Mariana Figueiro, Light & Health Program Director at the Lighting Research Center, explains in her TEDMED talk. Watch the video. For more information, also see Dr. Figueiro's TEDMED guest blog post.

Swedish school hopes bright classroom lights boost student performance
Lux Review - January 27, 2015
A school in the far north of Sweden may have found a way to boost students' performance in the dead of winter: Stimulate them with bright, intense classroom lighting. That makes sense to Dr. Mariana Figueiro of the Lighting Research Center, who points out that a brightly lit room can act like a dose of caffeine...

Swedish school sheds light on dark days of winter
The Guardian - January 24, 2015
David Crouch interviews Mariana Figueiro for The Guardian (UK) on light & health and a school in Sweden's far north that has recently installed special lighting to improve mood, raise performance, and help students through a long, dark winter.

Blue light from electronics disturbs sleep, especially for teenagers
The Washington Post - September 1, 2014
The pervasive glow of electronic devices may be an impediment to a good night's sleep. That's particularly noticeable now, when families are adjusting to early wake-up times for school...

The Light Therapeutic
The Economist: Intelligent Life - May/June 2014
Teenagers the world over should be cheering on the work of Mariana Figueiro, an expert on light and health at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York. In 2012 she found that when a group of young adults used an iPad for two hours before bedtime, they suppressed their production of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. The media focused on the obvious conclusion: that using such backlit devices ruins our sleep. But Figueiro draws another inference too.

Blue light exposure boosts stress hormone response in sleep-deprived teens
BioOptics World - October 2012
Almost 70 percent of adolescents get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights, which has been linked with depression, behavior problems, poor performance at school, drug use, and automobile accidents. Researchers have shown that exposure to morning short-wavelength blue light has the potential to help sleep-deprived adolescents prepare for the challenges of the day.

Early-Morning Screen Time Could Help Kids Wake Up
NBC News - October 2012
In addition to overcoming grogginess, researchers at the Institute's Lighting Research Center found that exposure to morning short-wavelength "blue" light — the shorter wavelengths emitted by most device displays — has the potential to help sleep-deprived adolescents deal with stress.

Textbook Includes LRC Field Study Results on Impact of Light on Teens' Sleeping Habits
LRC Press Release - July 2011
Research led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Associate Professor Mariana Figueiro on the impact of light on teenagers' sleeping habits was selected for publication in Best of Sleep Medicine 2011. The textbook is designed to keep sleep clinicians, researchers, and technologists informed of the latest science and technology advances in the growing field of sleep medicine.

Teens Need More Morning Light, Study Shows
Voice of America - March 2010
A number of studies show that teenagers do not get enough sleep. As a result, their schoolwork suffers and so does their health. A new study shows that parents can help teens get more sleep by regulating their exposure to light. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

View a list of publications, journal articles, and conference papers on light and health issues by Lighting Research Center scientists.








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