An Interview with Fred Maxik, Inventor of the Sleepy Baby™ Nursery Lamp
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Lighting Science Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Fred Maxik, at his research and development lab to discuss the topic of human-centric lighting and the impact one of his inventions, the Sleepy Baby LED Nursery lamp, has had on the marketplace.
Fred, first of all, thank you for taking time to meet with me today. Can you tell me a little about how you came up with the idea for the Sleepy Baby™ lamp?
“Once we recognized that the light we were producing in our general everyday fixtures had elements of it that were adverse to getting proper sleep, adverse to helping our bodies heal, adverse to having proper hormone balances and other nature cycles of our body, we decided it was best to enter a project to find the right light solutions. Sleepy Baby was one of those first products.”
What was the brainstorming process like for you and your team when the Sleepy Baby light was developed?
“Our scientists worked with a variety of experts in the field of circadian rhythms and built some of the test platforms used in this research. We tested lots of different light. Initially we didn’t know it was blue light. We measured all sorts of things- the exposure and production of and the effects of sleep and alertness. It had been discovered recently that certain portions of the blue light spectrum had adverse impacts on things like sleep, melatonin secretion, and periods of time where we entered REM sleep.”
You have been involved in many projects over the years in the biological LED arena. Your work in collaboration with NASA to address the sleep/awake cycles of astronauts on the ISS was groundbreaking and lead to the development of some of Lighting Sciences’ most revolutionary human-centric lighting products, such as Lighting Science’s popular GoodNight™, a pre-sleep LED, and the Genesis DynaSpectrum™. Can you elaborate on what the difference is between the GoodNight and the Sleepy Baby nursery lamp?
“There are spectral differences between the GoodNight and the Sleepy Baby- differences in power and distribution in the spectrum. The reason being is the GoodNight is set up more for adults who really need a higher level of color sensitivity and higher levels color rendering to perform tasks they may want to do before they go to bed. The Sleepy Baby light was designed so that parents could interact in a child’s room with a baby and not affect its ability to go back to sleep or the parent’s ability to secret melatonin and other hormones that might be passed on via breastmilk if they’re feeding at night. They are different spectrums because they are two different tasks for two different environments.”
What’s happening in a child’s physiology that makes your Sleepy Baby lamp a better choice for parents everywhere?
“In infants, their whole circadian system is just beginning to form. The various light cues we expose them to might have an impact in that. Not only can they be impacted directly, but they can also be impacted through the mother’s breastmilk. So, if you expose the mother to the wrong light before or during the time when she’s feeding the baby in the evening, late evening or throughout the night, you can actually again send the wrong signals through the breastmilk to the baby because of the secreted hormones that are in it.”
With all of the press and interest around the areas of blue-light spectrum and its harmful effect on sleep cycles, human-centric lighting has really stepped to the forefront of the lighting stage. Where do you see this trend going in the next 20 years to make this technology more readily available to all people?
“Blue light has been this sort of place keeper, but its really biologically specific blue light; it’s not all blue light. I think you’ll see a reversal of the trend of exposure to biologically sensitive blue light in the evening, while during the day we might want to enhance those portions of the spectrum to help people study better, help cognitive function, help children work better in schools. There really is a naturalness to light exposure. During the day time we may want to actually enhance that spectrum and should, in order to naturally increase alertness and performance levels.”
As a father of 3 children, including one newborn, have you noticed a difference on your own children’s sleep patterns and behaviors since using Sleepy Baby in your home?
“We absolutely use the Sleepy Baby light! I haven’t used anything except Sleepy Baby in my daughter’s room, and she gets a very restful sleep. I can’t point to the Sleepy Baby light and say that’s the only reason because we’ve used it with her from day one, but I hope it is.”
Do you think this will change the future of lighting? If so, how? Where would you like to see this technology applied?
“Ultimately, light and life intersect, and intersect profoundly. It is just a piece of technology that should be incorporated into the future of almost all lighting. First, we have to acknowledge the fact that there is this intersection, and once we acknowledge and understand it, we’ll find it manifests in so many ways throughout the lighting environment.”
What do you believe are the benefits of making this lighting technology more accessible across the globe?
“A good night’s sleep has been proven to be imperative for fostering good mental and emotional stability, and promoting healing and alertness. If we know better, we should do better. We should utilize the technology for the intention, and this means healthier hospitals, homes, nursing homes, and clinics. Insomnia is rampant, leading to depression and illness. If a light bulb, which you use every day anyway, can help to alleviate that, why wouldn’t we make this a standard?”