Military: They're "very promising."

The U.S. military is working on eyeglasses that could help soldiers avoid sleep deprivation.

The project being carried out by the Military Health System involves a tinting for lenses that can be worn an hour or two before bedtime, according to a press release. The lenses block the light that interferes with the brain’s production of melatonin, the chemical that helps people sleep.

“Sleep deprivation has been a significant and well-documented issue for service members,” said Navy Cmdr. Marc Herwitz, the chief ancillary informatics officer for the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine. “It has been especially problematic for those on changing shiftwork schedules and those who work continuously under artificial lighting.”

Herwitz noted that blue light comes from both natural and artificial sources. Among the artificial sources are computers, tablets, cell phones and overhead lighting.

Using materials now available, the Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity created a tint for safety lenses that blocks about 70 percent of blue light. Adding the tint to the lenses is inexpensive and easy to do.

The lenses can be useful as the day winds down and suppression of blue light helps bring on the urge to sleep. Research is underway to determine the effectiveness of the tint.

“We just completed a preliminary study with the use of these blue-light-blocking lenses in a group of active duty military members deployed in military facilities,” said Nita Shattuck, fatigue and sleep expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. “We’re still evaluating all the data and creating control measures to test, but the results are very promising so far.”

Shattuck said people who wore the glasses for two hours before going to bed fell asleep about 30 percent faster than those who didn’t use them.

"They’re getting more sleep, which improves their mood and makes them less likely to be drowsy when we need them to be alert, such as when they perform security duties," Shattuck said. "Nodding off is just not an option."

Read more at Military Health System

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