Last January, Dr. Robert Casper (Senior Investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute and the Camille Dan Family Research Chair in Translational Cell Biology) developed special lenses that filter out the harmful light wavelengths that interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythms.
Now, new results from a pilot project at Toronto Western Hospital with night-shift nurses, and among night-shift workers at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant in Kincardine have shown that wearing the lenses suppressed hormone disruptions and improved alertness, performance and mood during simulated shift work. According to Dr. Casper, use of the lenses also shortened the time needed to fall asleep, and resulted in significant improvements in the quality of sleep.
“We found that the lenses increased slow-wave sleep and decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which resulted in better overall quality of sleep,” said Dr. Casper.
He feels that this discovery is one of his team’s most exciting and rewarding research projects, because of the tremendous potential to improve the quality of life for shift workers and to prevent mistakes and accidents in hospitals and factories.
The lenses are now available on a limited basis from The University Eye Clinic in Toronto, and production for wide-scale distribution in North America will begin later this Spring.
More than 13 million North Americans are shift workers. Those who work the ‘graveyard shift’ are at an increased risk of breast and colon cancer, heart disease, depression, anxiety disorders, and obesity because of repeated disruptions to their biological clock from exposure to light at night.