Blue Light System Device may Help Elders Sleep

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Light system helps to sleep

A blue light system device, designed by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center may help elders sleep better by restoring circadian rhythm. Aging often leads to sleep disturbances. The goggle like light system device delivers intermittent blue light directly into the eyes, using a specific light intensity.

Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., Lighting Research Center Light and Health Program director and principal investigator on the project explains, “Light stimulus travels through the retina, the light-sensitive nerve tissue lining the back wall of the eye, to reach the master clock in the brain. However, a combination of age-related changes in the eye and a more sedentary lifestyle may reduce the amount of light stimulus reaching an older person’s retina, therefore reducing the amount of light for the circadian system.” During a twenty-four hour period, light and dark are essential for setting circadian rhythm and facilitating sleep.


The light system may be especially beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s disease who experience deterioration of neural signals in the brain. The scientists suggest that blue light provides a means to help elders sleep because it does use blue light in contrast to high-level lighting found in nursing homes and residential facilities throughout the day that can impair quality sleep among elders.

The study showing the light systems benefits included eleven participants between the ages of 51 and 80 years of age. The light system was worn for ninety minutes and melatonin levels were measured from samples of saliva and blood. Melatonin levels rise at night in a dark environment, and in response to circadian rhythm. The researchers found that more light increased the suppression of melatonin. When they delivered a lower level of blue light, melatonin suppression dropped from sixty percent to thirty-five percent when the goggle were worn for ninety minutes, and the effects lasted for one hour.

“The study suggests that the light goggles might be a practical, comfortable, and effective way to deliver light treatment to those suffering from circadian sleep disorders”, a problem that occurs among elders. The next step is to test how well the blue light system is tolerated by those suffering from sleep disturbances related to circadian-related sleep disorders. Using a simple blue light device might provide a safe and effective means of improving sleep quality among elders and others who experience sleep disorders.