Lighting the Brain of Night Workers

Back to feature: The Complex Nature of the Brain

Who? Dr. Marc Hébert, Centre de recherche Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec and Université Laval

What’s the issue?
People who work the night shift must cope with a situation where they have to be awake when their body says sleep, and need to sleep when their body clock is set to awake. The conflict between work schedules and natural body rhythms puts these workers at higher risk for accident since they are fighting a sleep deficit and simply are not as vigilant at night. “The situation of night workers is not recognized by most employers. This is troublesome, considering that helping the worker to better adapt physiologically to night work could potentially diminish the risk of accident, increase performance and improve the overall quality of life of the workers. Therefore both the employees and the employers could benefit from these strategies” says Dr. Marc Hébert, Professor at Université Laval.

What's the research?
Dr. Hébert is leading research to examine how innovative new lighting strategies could help workers better adapt to being awake during the night and being able to sleep during the day of. Dr. Hébert and his team have developed patent-pending echnology that involves the use of pulsed dim blue light along with red light (generating a lavender white light). The light helps to stimulate increased alertness at night and helps speed up the rate at which workers’ internal clocks adapt to a night-shift schedule.. The technology is currently being tested in police cars in Quebec City.

What's the impact?
Dr. Hebert’s research could help those who work overnight to be more alert while on the job therefore decreasing the risk of accident.

Says Hébert “Twenty percent of all accidents on the road are due to drowsy driving at night. Stimulating vigilance of drivers with special lighting could substantially improve road safety.”

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