Some people love them for their energy efficiency and long-lasting usefulness. Others hate them for their higher cost, bright harshness that differs from incandescent bulbs, or the belief that LEDs are part of a government plot (to do what, I’m not sure).
LED Lights have been around for years, but they have become much more prominent in the last few years. Originally they were used mostly in electronics. More recently they have popped up in Christmas lights, flashlights and a number of household items.
Now there may be another, unexpected use for LED lights – they may help you to sleep better! How can this be?
Artificial Lighting and Sleep
Humans were designed to live by natural light. When the sun was out, we had light and could do our work. When the sun went down it got dark and the work day ceased. Then we came up with fire and found ways to provide useful light in the evenings. Later, artificial light was ushered in by Edison’s light bulb and a new world dawned.
Our bodies are meant to sleep on a 24 hour schedule, governed by a circadian rhythm that is synchronized by daylight. Artificial light disrupts this daily cycle and makes it tougher for us to sleep at night. Sleep disorders like insomnia, anxiety and chronic tiredness were largely unknown prior to the widespread use of artificial lighting to extend the day.
It is an established fact that artificial lighting wreaks havoc on our ability to get to sleep at night. The biggest culprits are TVs, computers and back-lit electronic devices. What has been found is that these types of light sources prevent our brains from producing melatonin in the evening as bedtime approaches. Apparently our eyes do more than see. They also have receptors that affect lower level brain functions such as those that help regulate our sleep cycle.
An LED or light-emitting diode, is a digital device that is extremely adjustable. Color, frequency and brightness can all be precisely fine-tuned to yield whatever kind of light is desired.
For a couple decades now research has been conducted to determine whether LEDs could be used to affect sleep in some way. Recent results have been extraordinarily promising. Certain frequencies and colors can be used to restrict the production of melatonin, which has the effect of keeping people alert and awake. Other frequencies can have the opposite effect, encouraging melatonin production and inducing drowsiness.
A number of possible uses for this technology may be on the horizon. Imagine a laptop that is back-lit with LEDs, and that automatically adjusts lighting throughout the day to keep you alert when you need to be productive, but prepares you for sleep in the evening. Experts in the field believe we are only a couple years away from the first “biological specific lights” entering the market.
Keep your eyes opened for these and other exciting new technologies! We’ll try to keep you posted as we learn more.