Blue light may not be
as disruptive to sleep as night mode is
Researchers at the University of Manchester have found that
blue light may not be as disruptive to our sleep patterns as originally
The team found that using dim, cooler lights in the evening
and bright warmer lights in the day may actually be more beneficial to our
Current technologies are designed to limit our evening
exposure to blue light by changing the screen color to more of a sepia tone.
These changes may actually be sending our bodies mixed signals.
The reasoning behind this is that twilight is both dimmer
and bluer than daylight and the body clock uses both of those features to
determine the correct times to be asleep and awake.
By changing the lighting to sleep mode and away from the
blue lighting and into sepia lighting, the body may believe it’s time to wake
The scientists that studied the lighting effect used
specifically designed lighting on mice that allowed the team to adjust the
color without changing the brightness.
In the results, the blue colors produced weaker effects on
the mouse body clock than equally bright yellow colors.
According to the researchers, these findings have important
implications for the design of lighting and visual displays intended to ensure
healthy patterns of sleep and alertness. This is due to the body clock using a
specialized light sensitive protein in the eye to measure brightness, classed
melanopsin, which is better at detecting shorter wavelength photons.
This is also why researchers originally suggested that blue
light might have a stronger effect.
However, our perception of color comes from the retinal
cone cells and the new research shows that the blue color signals that those
retinal cone cells supply actually reduce the impact of light on the body’s
Dr. Tim Brown from The University of
Manchester states: “We show the common view that blue light has the strongest
effect on the clock is misguided; in fact, the blue colours that are associated
with twilight have a weaker effect than white or yellow light of equivalent
“There is lots of interest in altering
the impact of light on the clock by adjusting the brightness signals detected
by melanopsin but current approaches usually do this by changing the ratio of
short and long wavelength light; this provides a small difference in brightness
at the expense of perceptible changes in colour.”
He added: “We argue that this is not the
best approach, since the changes in colour may oppose any benefits obtained
from reducing the brightness signals detected by melanopsin.”
“Our findings suggest that using dim,
cooler, lights in the evening and bright warmer lights in the day may be more
“Research has already provided evidence
that aligning our body clocks with our social and work schedules can be good
for our health. Using colour appropriately could be a way to help us better
This study can be found in the scientific journal Current
Biology. It has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences
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