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Test clarifies daylight’s sleep effects

03-03-2010

The effects of daylight on the body’s internal clock is been well-documented in research, however a new US study has taken a direct approach to investigating the phenomenon in school children with results that back up the theory, reports Sciencenews.org. Researcher Mariana Figueiro from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute took two groups of pupils at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, NC, and tested their reactions to different light environments. As part of the study one group was tested with specially-developed orange tinted goggles that filtered out ‘blue light’, while the other group was left with full access to the light-filled environment of the school.

The study was developed to test the theory that the body’s circadian rhythm is reliant on blue light, which is typically experienced through exposure to daylight.

Following the investigation it was found that the students who wore the filter goggles were sleepier and less responsive during the day, and as a result performed poorly on tests compared to the students who hadn’t worn the goggles. In addition to the performance effects, it was also found that the goggle-wearing group produced melatonin – the sleep-inducing hormone – on average thirty minutes later than the other group, meaning that they were inclined to stay up later into the night and creating a cycle of limited night-time sleep and tiredness during the day.

“That shows that it’s important to get enough light in the morning to make sure you are synchronised with the solar day,” explained Figueiro. “Especially if you find it hard to get out of bed in the morning or get to sleep at night.”

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