Special Nursery Lights Help to Avoid Postpartum Depression

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University scientists have developed special light bulbs for the nursery that don't give off the blue rays that cause melatonin suppression. They allow mothers to keep making melatonin when they get up at night to care for their baby. This prevents disrupting their circadian cycle. Many studies show that disruption of the circadian cycle can lead to depression. .

A light bulb specially designed for use in infant nurseries has been announced by physicists at John Carroll University. It features lack of the blue light rays known to cause suppression of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Lack of sleep and disruption of the circadian rhythm has been linked to depression. The new light bulbs will help new mothers avoid postpartum depression.

Studies at Thomas Jefferson University at and the University of Surrey in the UK both reported that the wavelength of the light most responsible for suppressing melatonin was in the blue part of the spectrum with a maximum at 470 nanometers. Studies at the University of Toronto had demonstrated that goggles that blocked the light at wavelength shorter than 530nm allowed subjects to continue making melatonin even when exposed to bright light. Dr. Carome, spokesman for the group said "We had to identify pigments that when coated on the light bulbs would block the light at wavelengths shorter than this value (530nm). For fluorescent lamps we had to find colored plastic sleeves that when heat shrunk on the bulb would block this same part of the spectrum."

It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of births result in postpartum depression sufficiently serious to require treatment. It is generally accepted that rapidly changing hormone patterns are responsible. There is another factor that has been largely overlooked, up until now; namely, the use of ordinary light during the night.

When a new mother gets up at night to take care of her baby, and turns on an ordinary light, her pineal gland may stop making melatonin. When she goes back to bed she may have a hard time going back to sleep. If this happens several times a night she may make little melatonin. If this happens every night for a number of nights in a row it may totally disrupt her circadian cycle. This may lead to depression.

Having light bulbs that block blue light for use in the nursery and the bathroom does not completely solve this problem. The mother needs protection from ordinary lights such as might be found in the kitchen and refrigerator. She might need to visit these rooms to get a bottle and warm it. To protect her, the group developed eyeglasses that block the light at wavelength shorter than 530nm. They developed wrap-around designs so that light coming in from the side would be blocked. They formed a spin-off company separate from the University to market these new glasses and light bulbs. It was decided to sell them mainly through the internet and so a website designer was hired. Three styles of glasses are available in large, medium and small sizes. Incandescent lamps of 45 and 90W are available while only 40W fluorescent lamps are sold. Several kinds of LED nightlights are also available. The website can be accessed at http://www.sleeplamps.com. All of the products are sold with a 30 day money back guarantee.

When a new mother gets up during the night to care for her baby she can put on the glasses before turning on an ordinary light bulb. When she is in the nursery or bathroom that is equipped with the new light bulbs, she may safely remove the glasses. New born babies do not produce a lot of melatonin but avoiding suppression of what they have will help them sleep better as well. If the mother is breast feeding her baby both she and her baby can benefit from using the glasses a few hours before her normal bedtime. This will maximize her melatonin. Her melatonin will appear in her breast milk and help the baby sleep well.

Tests with new mothers to establish the benefits of blocking blue light have been started. There is no need to wait for the result of these tests for new mothers to avoid a possible hazard. Special light bulbs for use in the nursery are now available.

Contact Richard L. Hansler, Ph.D.

216 397 1657

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