Adequate sleep is crucial for students to maintain the best possible performance in the classroom. However, a natural biological tendency among teenagers to stay up later in the evening combined with early morning start times at most schools can result in a lack of sleep among middle and high school students that can impact their classroom performance. Research has shown that various properties of indoor lighting can influence the human cycle of sleep and wakefulness, known as circadian rhythm. This Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity (PFI:BIC) project from Brown University aims to better understand those light properties and design a dynamic, intelligent lighting system that can effectively shift the circadian phase of students to help them remain alert and focused during the school day.
The project aspires to advance smart lighting by developing a wireless networked biophilic lighting system that will deliver lighting tunable in terms of spectral band(s), intensity, directionality, duration, and season. An essential first step will be to determine the efficacy of this system in suppressing the production of melatonin, a hormone that mediates the circadian cycle. Working with Digital Lumens, the team members will design and integrate several of these wirelessly networked LED systems that are equipped with sensors and actuators. They will then test them in the Sleep Labs of Brown University/Bradley Hospital, via the monitoring and control of the lighting conditions, and analyze the physiological responses in real time. The "prescriptions", in the form of control algorithms and wireless networked control and sensor modules, will be the basis for field-tests in a local school, conducted in cooperation with school administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
The project will be undertaken by an interdisciplinary collaboration between the laboratories of Professor Jimmy Xu, from Brown University's School of Engineering, and Professor Mary Carskadon, from the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School. The industrial partner is Digital Lumens (Boston, MA), a small business pioneer in the development and implementation of next-generation LED lighting solutions.