Discovery Solves Problem of Early Starting Time of High Schools

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Wearing blue-blocking eyeglasses a few hours before bedtime resets the internal clocks to an earlier hour.

A novel way to advance the circadian cycle has been proposed as a way to solve the problem associated with the early starting times of middle and high schools. It has been recognized for some time that teen age students do not really wake up until well past the time they physically arrive at school. Researchers at Brown University have found that the student’s blood contains large amounts of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Researchers at the Lighting Innovations Institute of John Carroll University are seeking funding to carry out a study to find out if their method of advancing the melatonin cycle will help.

It is well known that exposing the eyes to light during the evening delays the start of the flow of melatonin until after the person has gone into the darkness of the bedroom. Because the students like to stay up late working on their computers or watching television, their melatonin cycle is delayed. This means that in the morning, the cycle doesn’t end until well after they are in school.

Five years ago it was discovered that not all light causes suppression of melatonin, only blue light. This means that wearing glasses that block blue light is the same as being in darkness as far as melatonin production is concerned. Putting on blue blocking glasses at 9:00 P.M. will move the circadian cycle forward in time so that the melatonin flow is over before the student gets to school.

The blue blocking glasses have been tested as a means to help people with sleeping problems. Putting on the glasses a few hours before bedtime allows melatonin to be present at the time people go to bed. This avoids the delay in falling asleep experienced by many people. Using the glasses also has been reported to help people sleep more soundly.

As a bonus, having melatonin present for a longer time may also reduce the risk of cancer. Melatonin is known to fight cancer in at least three ways. It is a powerful antioxidant, counteracting the damaging effects of free radicals produced by radiation and chemical pollutants. Melatonin also blunts the cancer-promoting nature of estrogen, and it interferes with the metabolism of materials that cancer cells require as food

Wearing the glasses in the late evening results in getting close to the conditions of light and dark experienced before the invention of artificial lighting. Glasses that block the damaging blue light are available at a web site of a spin-off company formed by the John Carroll researchers, http://www.lowbluelights.com. Filters for TV and computer screens as well as safe light bulbs are also available.

The John Carroll University researchers are seeking funding to test the glasses on high schools students to see if moving their circadian cycle forward in time will result in better academic performance in early morning classes.

Contact: Richard L. Hansler, Ph.D.

216 397 1657

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