U of T Engineering master’s student, Amol Rao, is the founder of a startup called Somnitude that helps athletes both get a better-quality sleep and adjust to major time-zone shifts. COURTESY OF SOMNITUDE.

While occasional sleepless nights have little effect on athletic performance, studies have shown that chronic sleep deprivation can negatively impact an athlete’s performance. With this in mind, a startup company called Somnitude has developed glasses that filter out blue light.

Co-founded by Amol Rao, a U of T graduate student in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Somnitude’s mission is to help people get a better night’s rest.

Blue light from electronics negatively impacts sleep quality by disrupting the circadian rhythm, which is an internal clock that fluctuates between sleep and wake cycles, and make it more difficult to wake up at regular times. Blue light is emitted at wavelengths between 400–490 nanometres and it is more effective than other wavelengths of light at suppressing melatonin, a hormone involved in putting the body to sleep.

Because the principal regulator of the circadian rhythm is light intensity, these glasses prevent light-induced melatonin production, thus regulating the external cues of the environment that directly influence the circadian rhythm.  

The orange colour that these glasses come in serve not merely as a decorative tint, but they allow them to be true blockers. If worn a few hours before bedtime, they can effectively filter out 99 per cent of blue light, which often come from electronics that use light emitting diodes as light sources.

Somnitude shipped glasses to 30 Canadian Olympic skiers during this year’s winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. They worked with Freestyle Canada, a program that trains freestyle skiers. The glasses also retail for $39 for the public.

Rao’s team also developed an app that helps to negate the effects of jet lag by providing suggestions such as when to shift one’s sleep schedule in preparation for travel. Rao hopes that these innovations will be helpful to both summer and winter Olympians in the future.

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