Tackling Flight Cabin Fatigue
In an effort to support faculty and students at the College of Aviation NatureBright has donated sky effect lights to replace the overhead florescent lights in classrooms, and select offices, as well as the recent light bar for the student lounge.
"The light bar is a relaxing area for students to study under the light which mimics the pure blue light of the north sky to enhance mood, elevates energy, and promotes better sleep. This particularly useful during finals week!" Said Lori Brown, a professor in the College of Aviation. But the lights could offer a solution to a much more serious issue.
Originally aimed at the treatment of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and winter blues, NatureBright® Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) products have recently been applied to fatigue, jet lag, and disturbances of the sleep-wake cycle.
In June 2012, NatureBright funded a trip that took Brown to Shanghai to present light therapy as a form of Fatigue Risk Management at the Aviation Outlook conference.
"At many airlines, crew members are forced to work to the point of exhaustion because of poorly scheduled duty time, lengthened duty day, minimum scheduled rest requirements, working the backside of the clock, and often experiencing long commutes to work. The need to reduce accidents and incidents caused by human fatigue in the aviation industry remains on the National Transportation Safety Boards’ (NTSB), most wanted list. We have had several recent occurrences with pilots falling asleep while flying the aircraft"
Brown's focus in China centered on the estimation that in the next 20 years 80% of the growth in Aviation will occur in China. Future research collaboration will involve WMU, Nature Bright, and Airlines in China. But Brown's research isn't limited to China.
"I am currently writing a grant proposal to collaborate with airlines in Sweden to look at the use of high lux lights in crew check-in areas during periods of daytime darkness. Much of Sweden is plunged into long, dark winters, often with lots of snow. The daylight hours are shortest in December, when the sun comes up at about 10 a.m. and disappears again at about 2:30 pm." Brown explained, "An energy company in Umeå, Sweden added phototherapy lights to 30 bus stops to help residents avoid seasonal affective disorder (SAD) brought on by the lack of sunlight in the city's winter months. It was this which inspired me to work with NatureBright to help some of the airlines in Sweden. Nature Bright has offered to donate all of the lights in collaboration with Western Michigan University and airlines in Sweden."
Light therapy is not new to WMU, as the Sindecuse Health Center offers light therapy as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Follow the link below to watch a short documentary featuring Brown and NatureBright.
YOUTUBE—NATUREBRIGHT LIGHT THERAPY MAY TACKLE FLIGHT CABIN FATIGUE