Blue light special for alertness

If you’re looking to improve your attention or reaction time, if you struggle with daytime sleepiness, or if you simply have some late-night work to do—simply switching your standard light bulb for a blue one might be a big help.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston compared measures of reaction time, attention and alertness between 16 people who were exposed to either blue or green light for six and a half hours during the day, and another group of 16 who were exposed to the same conditions and tests during the night.

Blue light caused the participants to respond more quickly to sounds and to have fewer lapses in attention. In EEG recordings, the electrical signals in the brain also showed a pattern of better focus and less likelihood for distraction after exposure to blue, but not green light. The people who were exposed to blue light at night also reported feeling less sleepiness, and their alertness levels were almost comparable to daytime levels.

These findings could help people working night shifts—and anyone whose work sometimes makes them drowsy—to stay on their toes while on the job. They could also help us to design better light bulbs that provide more of the energizing blue light our brains crave, which is more prevalent in sunlight than the standard light bulbs now in use.

The light bulbs used in the study were specially designed for the research, but if you’re looking for a quick fix, blue light bulbs can be found in any hardware store. And, although it can be scarce this time of year, sunlight is still free.

(Source: Sleep, 2014 Feb 1;37(2):271-81. doi: 10.5665/sleep.3396.)

Photo: Flickr/ zedzap

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