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"Make blue" to switch off: blue light to promote sleep?



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Light color apparently affects sleep differently than previously thought

In recent years it has been repeatedly read that blue light has a negative effect on sleep. In the meantime, it has almost become common knowledge that you should avoid using smartphones and tablets before going to bed, as the predominantly blue light on the screens can disrupt sleep. But researchers from the University of Manchester are now announcing that blue light is more conducive to sleep.

Does blue light promote sleep?

In the new study, the research team at the University of Manchester investigated how blue and yellow light influences fatigue and sleep behavior in mice. The result is surprising: Apparently the blue light was more sleep-inducing for the animals. The results of the study were published in the "Current Biology" magazine.

Above all, brightness has an activating effect

The research team led by Dr. Timothy Brown points out that the strength of light has the most important effect on sleep. The color was rather subordinate. The brighter the light, the more active the mice behaved. Dimmed light, however, reduced activity. In weak, blue light, the mice showed the least activity and became tired.

What can be derived from this for our health?

You can now activate night mode on many electronic devices such as smartphones. This reduces the blue portion of the light emitted by the display. If the latest research results are confirmed in further experiments, this would be the wrong way to go.

"At the moment it is often the case that people adjust the color of the lighting or the screens and make the screens more yellow," said Dr. Timothy Brown told BBC News. "Our prediction is that this color change has exactly the wrong effect," continued Brown. In any case, reducing the screen brightness has a positive effect on falling asleep and quality of sleep.

How can the results be explained?

Brown suspects that the test results are related to the effects of natural light on the sleep-wake cycle. "During the day, the light that reaches us is relatively white or yellow and has a strong effect on the body clock, and at dusk when the sun goes down, the light becomes bluer," he explains.

The experiments on the mice seem to show that this pattern can also be transferred to artificial light. "So if you want to avoid that light has a strong effect on your biological clock, then subdued and blue would be the right way," said the expert. Bright white or yellow light, on the other hand, has a strong activating effect and can be used specifically to keep you awake and alert.

Are the results transferable to humans at all?

Although mice are mostly nocturnal, the assumption has so far been made that the effect of light on the biological clock works the same in all mammals. The research team around Dr. Brown therefore believes the results are transferable to humans, but recommend further attempts to be sure. Concluding “light into the darkness” can only bring an extension of the study to human test participants. (kh)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Magistra Artium (M.A.) Katja Helbig

Swell:

  • Mouland, Joshua W., Martial, Franck, Watson, Alex, Lucas, Robert J., Brown, Timothy M .: Cones Support Alignment to an Inconsistent World by Suppressing Mouse Circadian Responses to the Blue Colors Associated with Twilight; in: Current Biology, Vol. 29, page 4260-4267, 2019, Current Biology
  • The University of Manchester: Researchers discover when it's good to get the blues (published December 16, 2019), manchester.ac.uk



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