Sleep is something we all need, but a vast number of us don’t get it properly. Technological advancements are now being made available to consumers to help get better and fuller sleep. This technology was implemented by NASA to help astronauts sleep. I talked to expert Robert Soler, the director of research at Lighting Science about the innovations in sleep solutions.
What is the extent of those with sleep problems and how does it affect daily functioning?
There are many studies out there that show that most Americans do not get enough sleep. Over the long term, acute sleep problems will affect energy, appetite and cognition and chronic sleep problems could have much more severe implications. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University, “Lack of sleep exacts a toll on perception and judgment. In the workplace, its effects can be seen in reduced efficiency and productivity, errors, and accidents. Sometimes the effects can even be deadly, as in the case of drowsy driving fatalities.”
How do you make NASA technology affordable and available to the consumer?
A number of factors go into making this technology available to the consumer, chief among them that the research and testing has already been done. In addition, the conditions in our bedrooms and living rooms are very different from those in space, so the design and form factor of the consumer version are very different. Finally, scale plays an important part. Lighting Science develops and manufactures a range of LED products for consumer and business applications, so we are able to source the components and materials at a competitive price point.
Why was it important for you to develop the Good Night Bulb?
When you understand the science behind the product, it’s quite obvious that we have a problem. Televisions screens, computers and handheld devices emit an enormous amount of blue light that has a scientifically proven impact on our sleep. So it makes sense that sleeping issues are on the rise. The Good Night bulb was developed to help people get a better night’s sleep and to help educate the public on the effect of standard lights and electronics on our health.
How does it work?
Scientists have found new photoreceptors in the eye that aren’t used for vision. They are used for syncing up the internal clock in your brain. Interestingly, these receptors are looking for a blue sky signal to tell the body when day time is. The problem is, those frequencies are in all our existing technology (lights, tablets, smartphones, TVs, etc). When these frequencies are present at night time, the body thinks it is still daytime and thus delays your natural sleep time. It does this by suppressing production of a hormone called Melatonin. This is not just an over the counter sleep aid, but a hormone our body produces naturally at night. Our technology understands these frequencies and blocks them out of our spectrum, so night time feels like night time, and our bodies can sleep naturally.
Why doesn’t the bulb work for everyone?
People who already sleep well don’t need this product — but most of us do have at least occasional issues with sleep and could benefit from it. In some cases, however, someone could be particularly sensitive to light and react differently than we expect. Also, The Good Night Light will have less impact to people who use electronics quite a bit a night.
What improvements have users reported?
Our users have reported improved sleep – and the ability to quickly and effectively treat jet lag when they travel. When used with the companion Awake & Alert bulb, that has enhanced daylight frequencies in it, customer have told us that they’ve been able to manage their sleep and ensure that they are more alert during the day. The main enhancement to the product that people request is to put both technologies in a single bulb. We are working on that solution and should have it available to consumers this summer.
What other innovations are in the future for your company?
Light has a special interaction with all living things and we are always looking for ways light can enhance life quality for people, animals and plants. For example, we’ve developed a light that will allow sea turtle hatchlings to navigate to the ocean better. We’ve also developed lights that grow plants more efficiently than any other electric light on the market. The science behind light is truly exciting – and we’re developing a range of products that harness the biology of light to improve health, wellness and the environment.