Have you ever had to get up in the middle of the night to go to work?
I do. Five times a week. The upside of breakfast radio is most days I'm home by mid-morning, sitting here writing these reviews. The downside? My alarm goes off at 2:52.
It turns out the show has to start at 6 every day, no matter how sluggish I happen to be feeling on any given morning. I try to nap and go to bed early but no matter what I do, all ever want is to go to sleep. It's a cumulative thing, too; by Friday night I can barely talk in coherent sentences. By the end of the year, I'm starting lose my grip on reality.
I often tell people it's like working with radiation; I feel vaguely nauseous all the time and it'll probably kill me eventually.
From what I can gather, this is just a slightly more concentrated version of how many modern workers feel on a day-to-day basis - a sensation that's been labelled, "Social Jet Lag."
But what's the real cause? And is there a cure?
The team at New Zealand tech startup OSIN thinks so, which is why they, led by founder, Ralph Booth have developed the Loop, a circadian desk lamp.
While many of us have heard of the circadian cycle, the natural rhythm most living things develop in response to the daily fluctuations in natural light, the majority of us probably don't even notice how we inadvertently mess with that cycle, just by going about our everyday lives.
We often have to get up long before sunrise to get to work on time where we are likely to be stuck inside a building lit by artificial light, with little or no access to the blue sky outside. Even if we get home before it gets dark again, we then proceed to flood our homes with even more pretend light and spend our evening literally torturing our eyeballs with stacks of bright, glowing screens of various sizes.
And we wonder why we can't immediately drop off into a deep, relaxing slumber, the moment we hit the sheets.
This isn't just anecdotal, there's plenty of genuine data behind it too. OSIN's Head of Science, Dr. Nina Li draws on data from over two decades of study into circadian clocks and claims feeling tired isn't the worst result of depriving yourself of a natural light cycle. As an expert in biotechnology, she's seen how melatonin levels can be measurably disrupted and that doesn't just lead to fatigue and bad sleeping patterns but psychological disorders too. Dr. Li even suggests even certain cancers will take advantage of this kind of lowered immunity.
But we can't all just throw in our jobs and go and work outside. That's where the OSIN Loop comes in.
For starters, it's a pretty funky-looking lamp and I happen to think it makes my desk look modern and space-agey - before we even get onto how it works. The Loop has been specifically designed to stand at a height and angle to aim its light right towards you, in a unique shape to keep glare to a minimum.
There's nothing really to control, other than the simple on/off button at the back of the base. Setup is via the OSIN app, which I have to say, needs a little work. Certainly the iOS version I'm using on my iPhone uses a tiny font that's very nearly impossible to see. I'm sure the OSIN boffins will sort this out eventually but in the meantime, I really had to squint to set up my account, pair with the Loop and set it to the correct time zone.
That's all there is to it, though. Once the Loop knows where in the world it is, it then automatically proceeds to provide the "right" coloured light at exactly the right time. The morning and daytime is all about introducing a bright blue, "natural sky" colour to your workspace. This is designed to invigorate and energise, hopefully setting you up for a much more productive session at your desk.
Then, as evening sets in, the Loop slowly and smoothly transforms from blue, to white, to a much softer amber, helping your body and mind to start winding down as you head towards bedtime. In fact, you can even use the OSIN app to reduce the brightness manually at night to enhance its more relaxing effect.
It does all this absolutely reliably. You don't have to leave it switched on constantly all day if you're not at your desk - whatever time you turn it on the Loop instantly figures out which part of its cycle it's in and displays the appropriate light.
But does it actually have an effect? Hmmm. Good question. I've watched footage of several beta testers claiming they definitely feel more energised and that they have a better sense of "well-being" - whatever "well-being" is. I've been using the Loop for a week or so and I can't say I suddenly feel like Captain America or anything. Although, as I look back, I do wonder if my tendency to sleep terribly due to my weird hours has been alleviated somewhat.
Is this a direct result from my exposure to the Loop, or a more psychosomatic effect? Does it matter? Either way it's a good result. I also can't claim to spend eight hours a day with this thing shining in my face - I have it set up on my desk at home - I don't have another one in the radio studio where I spend most of my mornings, although that could be a good idea - although at NZ$499.00 for a single lamp, I'm not sure I'll be able to convince my boss to sign off on the expense.
What I can't argue with is very few of us get the right mix of natural light in our lives these days and the science certainly suggests this might be a big reason why so many of us feel so terrible all the time. The Loop simply seeks to bring that natural, circadian cycle back into your life and if it really does help - even just a little bit - even if it's only in your head - it might just be worth the investment.
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