A new device, worn like regular spectacles, is helping shift workers and jet-lagged travellers get much-needed shuteye. Called Re-Timer, the glasses improve sleep by helping reset the user's sleep rhythms. Tara Cleary reports.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, around one third of Americans aren't getting enough shuteye. Jet lag, night shifts and seasonal mood disorder can disrupt sleep patterns. But psychologist Leon Lack at Australia's Flinders University believes he has the answer. It's called Re-Timer and uses light therapy to regulate our circadian rhythm, which tells the body when to sleep and when to wake. And though light therapy is not new, Lack says the Re-Timer's innovation is its portability. The breakthrough in the research was the small, light-emitting diode. SOUNDBITE: LEON LACK, CO-DEVELOPER OF RE-TIMER, FLINDERS UNIVERSITY, SAYING (English): "It just occurred to us that light-emitting diodes, that are very small devices, very efficiently convert electricity into light and if they were mounted closer to the eyes, they would get enough light into the eyes and serve the purpose of the light therapy device." Worn like a regular pair of spectacles, Re-Timer is adjustable and mimics the effects of sunlight using a UV-free, green light. Lack says the color choice was based on decade-long research. SOUNDBITE: LEON LACK, CO-DEVELOPER OF RE-TIMER, FLINDERS UNIVERSITY, SAYING (English): "That's shown that the blue and blue/green and green area of the spectrum, those colors, are the most effective at changing the body clock timing." Re-Timer has been a life changer for Michael Sakuma, a professor from Long Island in New York. For years Sakuma typically didn't fall asleep until around 3 a.m. and would wake around 11 a.m. He says this late-to-bed and late-to-rise cycle severely impacted his choices. SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL SAKUMA, RE-TIMER USER, SAYING (English): "It affected the professions I chose, because I could not choose a profession that would require me to get up at seven, 6 o'clock, the way the rest of the world seems to work. My life has been trying to move around this sleep problem and I think that the Re-Timer has really helped me in that." Sakuma has been using his Re-Timer for about two years and says it has become part of his life. SOUNDBITE: MICHAEL SAKUMA, RE-TIMER USER, SAYING (English): "I would like to see a day when I didn't have to use the Re-Timer. I guess it's because I've had this problem now for about 30 years, that it feels like it's part of me and so I can't imagine a time when I wouldn't use it." The Re-Timer retails for around 300 U.S. dollars and with regular use of his pair, Sakuma gets to bed at a more conventional hour and catches some much-needed slumber.