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Light glasses could make teens smarter

30/05/2018By Matthew Woodley
Bright light glasses have been shown to help sleep, and even bolster learning and cognitive skills in teenagers, according to a new Flinders University study.

A recent trial of the Re-Timer Light Therapy Glasses, invented by psychologists and sleep experts at the university, found that they helped treat acute and chronic sleep problems, and could even improve cognitive skills for teenagers and young adults without recognised sleep disorders. The researchers also suggested that this could help improve cognitive performance, which they described as the building blocks of IQ.

“It showed the treatment to be beneficial in many ways – not just improving the participants’ sleep patterns, but also their cognitive performances.”
Cele Richardson, Flinders University

“It showed the treatment to be beneficial in many ways – not just improving the participants’ sleep patterns, but also their cognitive performances,” lead researcher Dr Cele Richardson said.

“This proved very helpful for teens who came to our trial and were worried about their serious sleep problems that needed fixing. Now, we believe the outcomes can have wider application as well.”

The research paper, published recently in the Journal of Adolescence, is the first study to evaluate the cognitive effects that these types of bright light LED glasses have on young people. It built on previous research on the effect of the light glasses on teenagers’ sleep by also examining aspects of IQ testing, such as short-term memory and information processing speeds.

The controlled trial evaluated bright light therapy and morning activity for the treatment of Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder in 60 young people aged between 13–24 years.

The subjects received three weeks of light therapy treatment, and were assessed again three months after treatment. From these results the researcher staff suggested that similar intervention strategies could be used more widely, especially with adolescents who have late, but not clinically delayed sleep timing, to help improve their cognitive performance – particularly with information processing speed.

The findings also suggest that the relationship between sleep and cognitive performance in adolescence changes when sleep disturbance becomes chronic (known as Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder) rather than acute.

Further research into this area will be undertaken to try and determine if it is possible that all adolescents and their learning capability could benefit from similar sleep strategies.

Image courtesy: Flinders University

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