Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Maxfield Parrish's Blue and Melatonin

Today's New York Times has a feature that explains how colors in natural light set our body's internal clock. Blue light, it turns out, is crucial to helping is feel influences whether we feel sleepy and peaceful at the end of the day. 

Maybe that's why Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) was so successful in his blue-themed paintings of twilight, such as "Stars," above.

How we artificially light our indoor environments can help, too. According to the New York Times article:
"Artificial light has been around for more than 120 years. But the light emitted by older sources, like incandescent bulbs, contains more red wavelengths. The problem now, Dr. Brainard and other researchers fear, is that our world is increasingly illuminated in blue. By one estimate, 1.6 billion new computers, televisions and cellphones were sold last year alone, and incandescent lights are being replaced by more energy-efficient, and often bluer, bulbs."

New York Times article: 
Maxfield Parrish on Wikipedia
Previously on GJ: Blue Light and the Circadian Clock
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
Maxfield Parrish
Maxfield Parrish: The Masterworks
Thanks, Sam Zanger


MrCachet said...

I use a combination of Reveal and Natural Northern light in my studio. The Reveal has a natural 'feel', seems to be brighter, clearer and more 'orange' to me. Whatever. Being color challenged doesn't make light any easier for me to deal with. Anybody else using Reveal?

RatCreature said...

The way I understood the article it says the opposite, i.e. that the modern blue wavelength light disrupts the production of the sleepy-making melatonin more. The article says "The finding adds to a series of others suggesting, though certainly not proving, that exposure to blue light may keep us more awake and alert, partly by suppressing production of melatonin."

James Gurney said...

RatCreature, I think you're right: this NYT article does say that exposure to blue light messes up the sleep cycle.

However, I've amended the post to leave open the specific effects of blue light on drowsiness and deep sleep, because other studies have come to different conclusions.

For example, as I understand another study from the Lighting Research Center in Troy, NY, patients with Alzheimer’s disease experienced more hours of sleep per night after being exposed to blue LED lights than they did after being exposed to red lights.

Maybe someone who works in this field can clear up the confusion.

Scorchfield said...

Stars and Shine!

look an dream before-after!

Retta said...

I always enjoy your posts about color, and found this interesting.

I always use a red light at night, due to some info from Dr Mercola. Here is a little excerpt from his article:
"If you have to use a light at night, you should only use a red light or nightlight as that is the wavelength that will have virtually no influence on your pituitary gland to produce melatonin. When you are exposed to any other color at night your melatonin levels will drop like a rock and if this occurs regularly it will increase your risk of cancer."

Here's the whole article, if interested.

He has others that talk about the benefits of blue light, such as:

Very interesting topic. :-)

brownbird said...

This explains why I'm always falling asleep at my computer.......=:o)