This product will put you to sleep -- but that's a good thing

good night light
Photo: Philip Michaels

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LAS VEGAS—I honestly hope you’re not reading this story just before you get ready for bed. Because honestly, the light from the computer screen is likely to disrupt your sleep patterns. In fact, many of the lights in your home are probably confusing the heck out of your poor, tired brain.

This is not the ramblings of a madman—well, not any more than usual, really—but actual science, and it’s the driving force behind a line of light bulbs developed by Lighting Science.

As Robert Soler, Lighting Science’s director of lighting research explained to me on the CES show floor, photoreceptors in the eye send signals to your brain to regulate your internal clock. Specifically, blue light signals your brain that it’s daytime, and that it needs to be alert.

Most of the light bulbs we use mimic that blue light, and that’s a problem around bed time. The clock on the wall may say that it’s time to turn in, but the clock inside your head is still getting pelted with blue light from the lamps in your home. And that can make it difficult to fall asleep or have a very restful night.

good night light Photo: Philip Michaels

The Good Night Bulb gives off white light, helping your brain wind down at bedtime.

So Lighting Science built a light bulb that strips out that blue light. Insert the Good Night Bulb into a bedside lamp, and you can still read a book at bedtime, while the white light emanating from the bulb can signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down.

Lighting Science’s Alert & Awake Bulb solves the exact opposite problem. It gives off a very high amplitude of specific daylight hues, Soler says—again, with the intention of letting your brain know that it’s time to get down to business.

You could put the Alert & Awake Bulb in a place like your bathroom to put a little pep in your brainwave’s step as you get ready in the morning. Soler says putting the Alert & Awake Bulb in a desklamp can help battle those 2pm lulls, when your circadian rhythms go through a daily dip and you feel yourself nodding off.

Lighting Science developed the technology behind its Good Night and Alert & Awake products for NASA astronauts to help them keep their own circadian rhythms in line while out in space.

Both Lighting Science bulbs cost $69. If you think that’s a little much to pay for a light bulb, Soler counters that you’re comparing it to the wrong kind of product. A more fitting comparison, he says, is to sleep aids like melatonin supplements.

And if those two bulbs seem a little low-tech for a show like CES, Lighting Science is also developing a programmable bulb, the Rhythm Downlight, which will use a companion mobile app to help determine your habits and schedule. With that data, the Rhythm Downlight will be able to automatically adjust the light properties it’s giving off to either help you stay alert or get to bed. It’s slated for an early 2014 release.

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