Ever wondered why you wake up at roughly the same time each morning whether or not your alarm clock is on? Your body is programmed by circadian rhythms that dictate your sleeping and waking patterns and, as a result, even your moods.
When these rhythms are incompatible with your lifestyle, as may be the case with shift work, or disturbed by international travel and the change of time zones, the result is often insomnia.
Sleep is fundamental to our health and wellbeing with a lack of, or poor quality sleep affecting motor skills, memory and mental health. Yet disturbed sleep or insomnia is common, with up to 20% of Australians suffering the condition sporadically and 10% suffering chronic sleeplessness.
With over 25 years of research into sleep and sleep disorders, clinical psychologists Professor Leon Lack and Dr Helen Wright are world experts in falling asleep, staying asleep and the effects of not sleeping enough.
Their in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of sleep and sleep disorders has led to the development of a new, drug-free, means of reprogramming the body’s circadian rhythms using wearable light.
Professor Leon Lack began Flinders’ tradition of sleep and circadian rhythm research in 1987.
Professor Lack’s research has demonstrated that there are a wide variety of circadian rhythm disorders falling largely into two groups: Delayed sleep-wake phase disorder (DSPD), in which suffers fall asleep in the early hours of the morning and sleep late and Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder (ASPD) in which sufferers fall asleep early in the evening and wake in the early hours of the morning. Both of these issues are highly debilitating for those affected.
The push for drug-free intervention in sleep disorders was supported by research undertaken by Professor Lack at the sleep clinic at the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at the Daw Park repatriation hospital in 1992.
The connection between the programming of circadian rhythms and daylight is long established. Light boxes, external sources of artificial bright light, have long been used to treat seasonal affective disorder in countries with limited daylight during the winter months.
Wright and Lack’s research into sleep disturbances showed the increased effectiveness of certain light wavelengths in programming the body’s circadian rhythms. Shorter wavelengths were found to be more effective in regulating sleep hormone melatonin onset than their longer counterparts.
Wright and Lack’s work with patients demonstrated, however, that a static light source was not the best way of administering the light at the time it would be most effective. Their work also showed that light alone was necessary but not sufficient to bring about sustained change in sleep wake patterns.
These advances led to the development of a wearable blue-green light device that together with usage calculators and cognitive behavioural therapy based programs has now helped thousands of people sleep better. ‘Wearable light’ enables users to go about their daily lives whilst gaining the benefits of light therapy.
The Re-Timer device can be worn over regular glasses and contains rechargeable batteries so the wearer can move freely without the need to stay close to a static power or light source. Because the light source moves with the wearer, the angle at which the light is delivered remains optimised at all times during usage.
Re-Timer is the result of over 25 years of University sleep research and 2 years of device development with ophthalmologists and design specialists, and is now the market leading wearable light therapy device.
Applications for the targeted wearable light therapy that Re-Timer provides include Seasonal Affective Disorder, jet lag and shift work sleep disturbances with customers around the world reporting profound positive effects from their use of the device.
For more information contact Professor Leon Lack