Case Study: When Work Gets in the Way of Sleep
SleepSpec Sleep Shades help night owls get to sleep
Recent scientific research has revealed how light, in particular blue light, is capable of resetting one’s circadian rhythm, or “body clock” – the 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep and regulates many other physiological processes. This internal body clock is affected by environmental factors, such as light and temperature.
Blue light suppresses the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone), which the body needs for effective sleep. Electronic devices, such as computers, smart phones, tablets, as well as LED and fluorescent lights, emit high levels of blue light. Therefore, exposure to any of these light sources prevents melatonin production by telling the brain to wake up and, thus, disturbs the body’s natural rhythm.
The consequences of disrupting the circadian rhythm go beyond mere tiredness and lethargy. Scientists now believe that it can have serious repercussions to one’s health. According to Dieter Kunz (director of Sleep Research and the Clinical Chronobiology Research Group at Charité, Universitätsmedizin Berlin), maintaining synchronised circadian rhythms is important to health and well-being. ‘A growing body of evidence suggests that a desynchronisation of circadian rhythms may play a role in various tumoral diseases, diabetes, obesity and depression,’ he says.
Hence, those involved in careers with irregular or long work hours, such as shift workers, have been called ‘models for internal desynchronisation’ and are believed to be prone to diseases including cardiovascular disorders and cancer.
‘Many people work long hours, while other careers just dictate that one work into the night,’ says Dr Robert Daniel, Specialist Ophthalmic Surgeon and creator of the SleepSpec. ‘The problem is that this generally prolongs exposure to blue light – subsequently affecting the body’s ability to prepare for sleep.’
The SleepSpec presents a non-invasive, non-medicated solution to this problem. The orange lenses in the SleepSpec filter out all blue light, allowing for melatonin production. Worn for a minimum of two hours before bedtime, SleepSpec will ensure an easier transition to sleep and better quality of sleep.
‘It would be impossible for individuals to simply stop working or stop using their cell phones or tablets,’ says Dr Daniel. ‘SleepSpec allows one to carry on with work and life as usual, but without the negative effect of blue light.’
Barbara Gillman, who has been a drama coach and radio presenter for many years, has battled consistently with winding down at night and getting to sleep. ‘My work often means staying out late – whether it be giving late classes to students or presenting training or attending performances. The problem is that when I get home it is difficult to get the brain to shut off and go to sleep,’ says Gillman.
She heard about the SleepSpec by chance from Dr Daniel, who is her ophthalmologist.
‘I was keen to give them a try and whilst it did take a bit of time to get used to wearing them, they have been brilliant. I felt the difference almost immediately. I could feel the body calming down and falling asleep was so much easier. Also, if you wake up at night you just pop the glasses on so that the light does not disturb your sleep too much,’ says Gillman.
She added that she now wakes up feeling more rested. ‘I have subsequently got a pair of the SleepSpec for my husband. We had the optical insert made with his prescription lenses so that he can use them without his normal spectacles and we are thrilled with the results,’ she says.
The SleepSpec is an ideal solution for businessmen who need to work late to meet deadlines or who travel across timelines where jetlag is an issue. ‘One can carry on with work without interruption or control when one needs to sleep by using the SleepSpec,’ explains Dr Daniel. ‘It is perfectly safe and there is no medication involved so there are no side effects.’
In addition to getting better sleep, and therefore being able to function optimally, research has shown a link between poor sleep patterns and various mental illnesses, including Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.
‘When we sleep at night the brain detoxes. If the body is not getting enough sleep, or if the quality of sleep is not good, then the brain is unable to eliminate these toxins or waste and so they accumulate; and it is believed that this accumulation of waste material makes one more susceptible to these illnesses,’ he explains.
Furthermore, there is growing evidence that there is a higher rate of developing depression amongst users of sleeping pills. It is also believed that the use of sleeping pills is associated with suicide.
‘Keeping these findings in mind, the SleepSpec represents a highly effective solution to insomnia and sleep difficulties preventing individuals from using medication, which may have other harmful side-effects,’ says Dr Daniel.