See the light! Short on energy? Flip this switch: You might be able to stave off drowsiness with red light, according to a new study at Rensselaer Po...
Short on energy? Flip this switch: You might be able to stave off drowsiness with red light, according to a new study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
People sat under red or blue lights or darkness for 48 minutes while a machine scanned brain activity. At the end of each session, the people who basked in the red glow felt nearly 20 percent less tired than people who sat in blue light or darkness. Plus, brain wave measurements revealed that people who felt the red light produced lower power alpha waves and theta waves, which studies have shown to be associated with more alertness.
“Our hypothesis is that red light activates the brain’s arousal system,” says study author Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D.
Now, if you tend to feel groggy in the afternoon, first consider changing up what you eat for lunch. In a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that people who consumed meals rich in carbohydrates reported significantly higher levels of sleepiness, since carbs make tryptophan—the amino acid thought to cause sleepiness—more available to the brain.
But if you want to see if the light experiment could work for you, Figueiro recommends either mounting a bank of red LED lights—tail lights for bicycles might work, as long as they don’t flash—on the top of your computer monitor, or swapping a red LED or CFL light bulb into your desk lamp. The light should be at least the equivalent power to a 40-watt bulb, and needs to be positioned in front of you, not shining down from behind your head.
You’ll only need to flip it on for around an hour while you continue to work. Your body naturally goes into a down cycle of sleepiness 16 to 18 hours after bedtime, Figueiro says. So if you hit the hay at 11 p.m., turn your red lights on at 3 p.m. the next day to keep your energy levels up.
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