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12/15/2006 - Special Nursery Lights Help to Avoid Postpartum Depression

University scientists have developed special light bulbs for the nursery that don't give off the blue rays that cause melatonin suppression. They allow mothers to keep making melatonin when they get up at night to care for their baby. This prevents disrupting their circadian cycle. Many studies show that disruption of the circadian cycle can lead to depression. .

University Heights, OH Dec 15, 2006 PRWebb: A light bulb specially designed for use in nurseries has been announced by physicists at John Carroll University. It features lack of the blue light rays known to cause suppression of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Lack of sleep and disruption of the circadian rhythm has been linked to depression. The new light bulb will help new mothers avoid postpartum depression.

It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of births result in postpartum depression sufficiently serious to require treatment. It is generally accepted that rapidly changing hormone patterns are responsible. There is another factor that has been largely overlooked, up until now; namely, the use of ordinary light during the night. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland but only when the eyes are in darkness. Normally the flow starts at night, a short time after going into a darkened bedroom and gradually increases to a maximum about half-way through the night.

When a new mother gets up at night to take care of her baby, and turns on an ordinary light, her pineal gland may stop making melatonin. When she goes back to bed she may have a hard time going back to sleep. If this happens several times a night she may make little melatonin. If this happens every night for a number of nights in a row it may totally disrupt her circadian cycle. This may lead to depression.

In 2001 it was discovered that not all light suppresses melatonin, only the blue rays. Experiments at the University of Toronto demonstrated that by blocking the blue rays, the pineal gland can continue making melatonin. Glasses that block blue light and light bulbs with filters to remove the blue light have been developed at John Carroll University in Cleveland Ohio. A spin-off company Photonic Developments LLC makes these products available on a website www.sleeplamps.com.

When a new mother gets up during the night to care for her baby she can put on the glasses before turning on an ordinary light bulb. When she is in the nursery or bathroom that is equipped with the new light bulbs, she may safely remove the glasses. New born babies do not produce a lot of melatonin but avoiding suppression of what they have will help them sleep better as well. If the mother is breast feeding her baby both she and her baby can benefit from using the glasses a few hours before her normal bedtime. This will maximize her melatonin. Her melatonin will appear in her breast milk and help the baby sleep well.

By avoiding melatonin suppression and the resulting loss of sleep and disruption of her circadian rhythm she can reduce the risk of postpartum depression. Tests with new mothers to establish the benefits of blocking blue light have been started. There is no need to wait for the result of these tests for new mothers to avoid a possible hazard. Lamps for use in the nursery are now available that will not cause melatonin suppression. It's a way of going back to the benefits of the longer periods of darkness that existed when the human race evolved.  

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