Learn to live better by measuring exposure to sunlight
Christina Friis Blach Petersen has created a device the size of a button that measures the amount of sunlight a person receives during their day and offers advice for improving their habits.
When Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2017 for their research on circadian rhythms, Christina Friis Blach Petersen was excited. She knew that this would signify a boost to her own project and the company, LYS Technologies, that she had set up just a few months before. The reason this young Dane was happy was because her work is about analysing the impact of sunlight on people’s biological clocks to offer solutions.
Circadian rhythms mark the physical, mental and behavioural changes that occur due to the daily cycle of light and dark, and are regulated by a biological clock in each cell. The leap made by the scientists who won the Nobel Prize was to isolate the gene that controls these rhythms. Thanks to this, more precise research can be done on how circadian rhythm alterations affect the body. Some of the implications of these changes are reflected in loss of sleep, appetite disorders, mood, and even mental health.
Petersen has focused precisely on combating these circadian rhythm alterations. After having studied design and design innovation engineering at Kolding School of Design in Denmark, the Royal College of Art in London and Imperial College London, Petersen decided to embark on her own project to fight the damaging effects of changes in circadian rhythms.
Through her company LYS Technologies, Petersen has designed an accessory for clothing that is slightly larger than a button and measures the sunlight that anyone wearing it receives during a day. The device transmits information via Bluetooth to an application that analyses the data and offers advice to improve the user’s routines.
The navy blue device, which is 2.8 centimetres in diameter, weighs four grams and has a clip to attach it to clothing, is on sale in 11 countries. Up to present more than 2,000 devices have been sold, particularly to companies who see it as being beneficial for their employees. According to a pilot carried out by Petersen’s team, after three weeks using it, “the average time that these people took to fall asleep was reduced from 27 minutes to 16 minutes”.
For Petersen, who was recognised as one of the Innovators Under 35 Europe 2018 by MIT Technology Review in Spanish, the problem of disrupted circadian rhythms due to an absence of sunlight is not exclusive to northern regions or London, where she lives and where there is not as much sunlight as regions further south. “You can live in Spain or in a sunny country and spend more than 10 hours working in a basement without sunlight at any time“, she explains, and concludes: “That is why it is important to measure the sunlight that you receive and to take action if it is low, because it affects your health“.