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Blue light and human attentiveness

Disruption of our circadian rhythms due to genetic or environmental cues results in reduced quality of life and increased morbidity for millions of people every year.

Disruption of our circadian rhythms due to genetic or environmental cues results in reduced quality of life and increased morbidity for millions of people every year.

The Surrey Sleep Research Centre is home to a range of pioneering studies on sleep and its cutting-edge research has demonstrated, for the first time, that blue-light intervention can increase alertness, improve mood and affect emotional brain responses.

These findings have led international lighting standard organisations such as Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) and International Commission on Illumination (CIE) to set up specific task forces to address this issue.

They have also resulted in commercial applications and product innovations, such as Philips Electronic’s novel lighting systems.

These systems use blue-enriched polychromatic lighting and can be used to benefit users in a range of settings, including factories of shift workers and schools, enhancing health and wellbeing and increasing attentiveness and productivity.

In their latest project, the team have worked alongside Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to measure short-wavelength light emissions from everyday devices.

Examining tablets, e-readers and smartphones, the research recommended that future devices should be better optimised when night-time use is anticipated. For example, the development of hardware, which creates an automatic 'bedtime mode', that shifts from blue to yellow and red light emissions so as not to affect quality of sleep.

To find out more about Surrey’s sleep and chronobiology research, visit the Surrey Sleep Research centre website or Professor Derk-Jan Dijk’s academic profile.