Could this be a cure for insomnia? How a sleep mask can send out a ‘camera flash’ of light to reset the clock for night owls
- A new, high-tech sleep mask sends out millisecond pulses of light as you sleep
- The pulses stimulate nerves that are sensitive to light and that help produce melatonin, the hormone that tells you when to wake up and when to go to sleep
- This helps reset your daily (circadian) rhythm so you wake up in the morning and sleep at night
A new eye shade could help reset your internal body clock so you can fall asleep more easily at night.
The high-tech sleep mask uses light-flash technology, developed by researchers at Stanford University in California, to regulate your daily (circadian) rhythm by sending out light pulses as your sleep.
The makers of the Lumos Smart Sleep Mask say these pulses – similar to a camera flash – help stimulate light sensitive nerves in the brain that send signals to suppress or produce melatonin, the hormone that controls when you are awake and when you go to sleep.
They hope this technology will be a less expensive, and easier, treatment for people who can’t sleep either due to insomnia or jet lag.
A new, high-tech eye shade (pictured) could help reset your internal body clock so you can fall asleep easier at night
Our biological clocks are synchronized to light-dark changes and regulate multiple physiological processes including patterns of body temperature, brain activity and hormone production.
Light is the main cue that influences circadian rhythms. When the sun rises, the brain sends signals to the pineal gland to suppress melatonin production.
But when the sun sets, the pineal gland receives signals to secrete melatonin to make you drowsy
Night owls keep lights during the evening, therefore disrupting the signals that tell them it’s time to go to sleep.
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If your body doesn’t receive these signals, however, your circadian rhythm can be completely thrown off.
‘Any time we affect our circadian rhythm, we impact our sleep, the health consequences are quite large,’ Dr Robert Oexman, a sleep expert in Joplin, Missouri, told Daily Mail Online.
‘It can raise the risk for everything from anxiety to depression, it can affect changes in glucose levels – raising the risk for type 2 diabetes – and it increases the risk of certain heart diseases and cancers.’
WHAT ARE CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS?
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle.
They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment.
They are found in most living things, including animals, plants and many tiny microbes.
Circadian rhythms are driven by our biological clocks.
They are produced by natural factors within the body, but are also affected by signals from the environment.
Light is the main cue influencing circadian rhythms, turning genes on or off that control an organism’s internal clocks.
When there is less light, the brain makes more melatonin to make you drowsy but more light means you are more awake.
Circadian rhythms can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions.
They have been linked to various sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
Abnormal circadian rhythms have also been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
Recently, several sleep technologies have introduced light therapy as a way to help people get better shut-eye.
‘Light therapy is simply resetting our circadian clock. We introduce bright light in the morning and dim light in the evening,’ Dr Oexman said.
The Lumos Smart Sleep Mask works by sending millisecond pulses of light – similar to that of a camera flash -, to stimulate nerves in the brain that are sensitive to light.
The team behind the mask says these light pulses can influence the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is a region of the brain that coordinates circadian rhythms using many different signaling molecules.
Stimulating this part of the brain properly to get circadian rhythms synced back up can help to reset the sleep-wake clock.
The mask’s makers also say it could help people suffering from jet lag, when the circadian clock is naturally thrown off due to a time zone switch.
‘For jet lag, we can actually shift the sleep cycle three or four hours in a single night,’ LumosTech CEO Vanessa Burs told Apex.
That means traveling from San Francisco to New York City would only require wearing the sleep mask for one night, or two nights if traveling from the Bay Area to a further destination such as London.
In reference to the San Francisco to New York City scenario, Burns said instead of the user forcing themselves to go to bed at 11pm ET – even though it feels like 8pm PT – the mask would help them actually feel like it was time to go to sleep.
The Lumos Smart Sleep Mask, set to go on sale in August for $175, isn’t the only product on the market that can help you get some snooze.
A more expensive model known as the Dreamlight, marketed at $300, uses warm-orange colored light meant to trigger melatonin production to help you fall asleep while green lights are meant to gently wake you.
A less expensive version, the illumy smart sleep mask, which sells for $100, works similarly with red-toned light to help you drift often to sleep and blue-toned light to wake you up.
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