Four teams of students from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School were recently named national finalists in the 2nd annual Bright Schools Competition. The competition is a collaborative effort of the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) that encourages students in grades 6-8 to explore the correlation between light and sleep and how it influences student health and performance.
The Narcolepsy Light Therapy Team, the Smart Sleep Team, The Dsylexia, Light and Sleep Team, and the Lights Off Team along with their teacher, Mr. John Sweeney, are four of the 50 national finalist teams, chosen among 150 teams, made up of nearly 500 students from 53 schools.
The Narcolepsy Light Therapy team was inspired by problems experienced by one of their teachers. These students studied the causes of narcolepsy. They proposed a study which would expose people suffering from this condition to various forms of blue lighting throughout the day, such as blue walls and blue lighting from computer screens to see if they could reduce the production of melatonin and so lessen the need for sleep.
The Smart Sleep Team researched how different wavelengths of light affect Circadian Rhythms which control our sleep cycles. Along the way, they discovered the relationship between light, heat and sleep. The team designed an app to set light and heat levels in your home to produce optimal levels for falling asleep.
The Dyslexia, Sleep and Light Team learned that people with dyslexia suffer from sleep disorders at a higher rate than the general public. Like all students, those with dyslexia usually work in classrooms illuminated by fluorescent light which is particularly bad for them. The students proposed a study exposing different groups of dyslexic students to different types of lighting and comparing the amount of sleep each group got each night.
Students from the Lights Off Team studied “sleep inertia” which happens when a sudden alarm wakes you while your body is still producing melatonin which causes drowsiness that can last throughout the day. The students designed an app which changes the lighting in your house to a lower wavelength (red) lighting in the evening, monitors your heart rate as you sleep and gradually fills the room with higher wavelength (blue) lighting waking you up slowly thus eliminating the sleep inertia.
First-, second- and third-place winners will be announced in early May.