Circadian rhythms might sound like a good name for a jazz band, but they are actually a highly important aspect of human nature. Controlled by the hypothalamus, circadian rhythm, sometimes referred to as our “inner clock,” is a major factor in how we respond to light and darkness, and signals when it is time to go to sleep or wake up.
For most of human history there was not a lot of outside interference with these rhythms, as artificial light was limited and most work was done during natural daylight hours. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, our modern world provides almost constant disruptions, from shift work, jet lag, time changes in the spring and summer, those late night comedy shows or a tied playoff game that you just cannot miss and hours spent in front of computers, iPhones and numerous other devices. Living in northern regions, with much shorter days during the winter, also has a negative effect on mood and functioning. Some people experience symptoms serious enough to be officially diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Amber Leong, Co-Founder and CEO of Circadian Optics, had earned a BS in Communication from Bemidji State University in 2006 and an MBA in Marketing in 2010 from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. She went on to work in branding and innovations initiatives, specializing as a consultant for international firms exploring business growth opportunities in the U.S. Living in Minneapolis, where winters start early and last a long time, Leong was well aware of the negative effects of having to wake up in the weak light of a winter dawn, spend most of the day inside at work or school and then travel home in the dark.
In 2016 Leong helped establish Circadian Optics in order to create an innovative line of light therapy lamps. Not only did she want to help people maintain healthy circadian rhythms, Leong was also interested in creating lamps that are stylish and modern, something that her customers would be proud to have displayed on their desk at work. “This way,” Leong says, “more consumers are likely to use them and to obtain the positive health benefits of light therapy.”
Circadian Optics makes lamps of five different styles, including one that folds and is small enough to carry in a purse or briefcase. On March 8, 2019, Circadian Optics was reviewed by Michele Debczak of Mentalfloss, who called it the “tiny lamp that make[s] waking up before sunrise a lot easier.” The lamps mimic the color and brightness of the sun, and are an easy and effective way to get exposure to daylight while indoors.
Even though most people find it effective to use the lamps in the morning for 15 to 60 minutes per day, Circadian Optics recommends experimenting with light intensity and exposure duration from the lamps until finding a routine that works particularly well for each individual. Positive benefits should be obvious after approximately one week of use. The lamps are available through the company website, or from Amazon.
As someone who has always been interested in entrepreneurship and who has been a long-time fan of the show, Leong says that appearing on Shark Tank is “a dream come true.”