Rethinking your lights can improve your mind and body
Interior spaces have two types of lighting: natural and artificial. Although natural light is more desirable, most of us spend the bulk of our indoor life under a man-made glow. And unless your lighting has been planned with such considerations as color temperature and dimming functions, artificial light will seem exactly that: artificial. Not only can it be unpleasant and distracting, researchers are discovering that it can have an adverse effect on mental health.
You’ve experienced successful lighting design, although you might not have realized it at the time. Restaurants, art galleries, museums, resorts, spas, luxury stores—environments designed solely for pleasurable or leisurely experiences—plan their lighting to create a positive, pleasing, feel-good space.
Take a look around your immediate environment. What lighting are you surrounded with? Is it harsh down-lighting? Soft indirect lighting and specific task lighting for reading? Are you reading this by a single decorative light flooding the room or a side table lamp? Unless you’re sitting by a large window, allowing the daylight to perform the task, it’s a safe bet that your lighting could use some help.
One of the most dynamic terms today in lighting for homes, office, and other environments is circadian lighting. Our circadian rhythm is how humans respond to lightness and dark. For example, waking during the daylight hours and sleeping at night. Since post-industrial work means we spend the majority of daylight hours indoors, we’ve evolved to experience a lack of natural lighting throughout the day. That’s where circadian lighting can come in.
Over the last 40 years we have moved away from inefficient incandescent and flicker-producing fluorescent products to small aperture recessed lighting that utilizes energy efficient color modulating and dimmable LED (Light Emitting Diode) modules. We have cut our energy use by 80 percent, but now need to focus on how the color modulations of LED lighting can impact our health and wellness.
According to sustainable engineering firm Glumac, replicating the natural effects of sunlight and darkness has enormous health benefits: Increased alertness in the morning, improved concentration and mood, reduced hyperactivity, fewer accidents, faster cognitive processing, and improved sleep.
As research advances, we are finding that LED technology is the answer to our dependence on artificial light, a solution that’s now available in our home and office lighting systems. Whether you are building a home, renovating, or just looking at your home or businesses lighting options, take some time to educate yourself on circadian lighting. Improving your mental and physical life really could be as simple as flicking a switch.
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