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As my nieces and so many brilliant young people start their exams, here are some notes about sleep and the brain that you might find useful when trying to convince them to switch off and get some sleep.


Sleep before an exam accounts for up to 25% of their results (Sleep quality, duration, and consistency are associated with better academic performance in college students) . But you may be surprised to know that that sleep after learning  helps to build memories more efficiently too! Post-Training Sleep Modulates Topographical Relearning-Dependent Resting State Activity


Scientists can even see how  effectively adolescent brains are rewiring by tracking their slow wave sleep  Association between sleep slow-wave activity and in-vivo estimates of myelin in healthy young men  REM sleep can even help ‘gryification’ (brain folding) which increases grey matter and connectivity. It helps keep us older brains in the groove too… Association between circadian sleep regulation and cortical gyrification in young and older adults


These are just some of the research papers from the brilliant Christina Schmidt of University of Liège, Belgium – the latest speaker in the fascinating series- “Current Topics in Sleep & Circadian Health”


So what’s that got to do with light?

 You know you need to get outside first thing in the morning  (30 minutes is enough to reset your clock – but get more if you can).   You might even switch to soft warm light before bed (you’re more sensitive to blue wavelengths in the evening) Effects of light on human circadian rhythms, sleep and mood But you may be surprised to know that a dark room is just as important for their sleep – Light exposure during sleep impairs cardiometabolic function So as the days get longer, it’s more important than ever to invest in black-out blinds or curtains especially for a child’s room. There are plenty of buying guides out there – here are a couple Blackout Curtains and Best blackout curtains to help you sleep at any time of day. As a rough guide, if you can see the


Here’s a quick listen for your commute – in conversation with Chris Fordham of the Light Review – why the lighting community is so brilliant – and why the industry is like a tanker…. – Dr. Shelley James: a Light Perspective to Change Your World for Good

Cats eyes 

We’ve just been to collect my amazing nieces’ cat while she goes travelling. So cat’s eyes are on my radar.  I’ve always been fascinated by the way they glow in the dark. They do that thanks to a reflective layer in the back of the eye (the ‘tapedum lucidum’) that bounces light around in the eye.  They get around 40% more out of every photon – which is why they’re so good at seeing in the dark. 

This principle was the inspiration for the familiar cat’s eyes in the road – designed by Yorkshireman Percy Shaw. His invention was inspired by an encounter with a cat sitting on the side of the road – the reflective eyes stopped him from driving into the ditch on his way home from the pub one foggy night back in 1934.  Read about his ‘lightbulb’ moment here  – Percy Shaw – the Yorkshire inventor of the “Cat’s Eye”


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