Howell ‘Dream Team’ Shines Blue Light On Sleep

Howell MS South 7th graders Beata Wolak, Ruth Daly and their teacher Josh Langenberger won 2nd place for their project exploring how blue light from electronic devices affects sleep. (Photo courtesy Bright Schools Competition)

HOWELL – Getting to sleep at night can be a struggle for everyone, especially with so many electronic devices in our lives – TVs, smartphones, computers – all within arm’s reach.

Beata Wolak and Ruth Daly, both 7th graders at Howell Middle School South, decided to see what they could do about the “blue light” that these devices give off, and how it can make our bodies actually become more alert near bedtime, instead of naturally winding down.

Their experiment was part of the Bright Schools Competition by the National Science Teachers Association, in which the girls, dubbed the “The Dream Team,” won second place.

In their report titled “Illuminated Electronic Impact on Circadian Rhythm,” the two students, under the direction of their science teacher Josh Langenberger, wrote, “A computer or phone screen emit a blue light, and since blue lights have a higher frequency, it makes us more alert.”

They then set out to prove that fact, using their classmates. From a set of 10 fellow teens, they conducted surveys over the course of three days for “alertness of learning,” modifying criteria used for pain assessment scales in hospitals.

Initially, the control and experimental groups scored about the same, around 6.8 out of 10, when using electronics freely after school. But when the experimental group was told not to use any electronic devices after 8 p.m., their alertness jumped to 8.8.

Beata and Ruth now have goals to continue their campaign beyond the classroom. They hope to schedule a meeting with the Howell Board of Education to discuss the benefits of electronic assignments, feeling that if they need to be completed after 8 p.m., the risk of losing alertness in school the following day may not be worth the benefits of the assignment.

They also feel that using social media such as Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook would help spread an awareness campaign in the Howell school district and beyond.