We’ve all heard about our body’s circadian rhythm, but did you know how much impact the light we’re exposed to can have on our body clock? This is why creating a healthy environment for both the home and workplace can improve alertness, productivity, sleep and our overall health.
When looking at how the human body responds to light, we need to understand something called the circadian rhythm. It’s essentially your body clock, and it is drastically impacted by light. Have you ever known someone who manages to wake up on time every day with no alarm clock? They likely have a circadian rhythm that’s very in tune with their needs.
In simple terms, when we’re exposed to certain types of blue-spectrum light during the day, our brain sends out signals prompting the body to be more alert. When it’s dark, the brain sends different messages, telling the body it’s time to wind down.
However, research has shown that in modern times, our body clock, or our circadian rhythm, is becoming confused. It’s partly due to the use of screens and devices that emit blue light, but it’s also a result of our changing lifestyles and the light we’re provided within our homes and workplaces.
Before electricity and the invention of lights, as we know them today, our circadian rhythm worked more efficiently because humans spent more time outside. They received the correct type of blue-spectrum light from the sun during the day, and the darkness of the night told people when to sleep. Daylight also gradually decreases, so the lessening light levels helped the body wind down.
Today, we spend the majority of our lives inside. Plus, when we’re inside, we’re exposed to a lot more blue light than our body is used to. Blue light can come from TVs, smartphones, computers and even the halogen and LED lights used in modern homes. As a result, our bodies are almost tricked into believing it’s still daytime, and we remain more alert.
As such, many experts suggest trying to achieve a lighting system and even a lifestyle that mimics the course of natural daylight for improved circadian rhythm and better sleep.
Blue light is basically the enemy of good sleep. It’s a very natural type of light that we receive from the sun, so there’s nothing particularly damaging about it from a biological point of view. However, blue light contains the most energy out of all colours on the light spectrum. When exposed to blue light, our body produces less melatonin, which is the chemical that helps us wind down for sleep.
If we’re spending our evening bathed in bright blue-spectrum light through halogen or LED lights in the home, it’s basically bad mood lighting. Our brain thinks it’s still daytime and sends all the signals we need to stay awake and alert. Screens and devices also emit blue light, which is why many experts suggest putting the phone down a couple of hours before bed.
Considering we need lights in our home, how can we use lighting to our advantage while still maintaining a good circadian rhythm? Fortunately, there are several ways to create healthier and more eco-friendly lighting in your home or workplace.
Let’s talk about sleep first because the benefits of getting a night of good sleep are widely known. If we take what we’ve just learned about light and the human body, we know that we need to decrease exposure to blue light in the hours before bed. That way, our bodies start to wind down, and we can get a more relaxing sleep.
One of the ways to do this is by dimming the lights in your home as the evening goes on. We’ll discuss this more when we get to circadian lighting. If you don’t have a fully programmable smart lighting system, there are still things you can do.
Use coloured lighting to your advantage by choosing red-spectrum lighting for the bedroom. That doesn’t mean the light will appear red to the naked eye; it will still look normal, but it will help the body produce melatonin to help you wind down.
While sleep is essential, it’s equally important to get the right type of light to stay alert and productive during the day. If you’re wondering what natural light means, we refer it primarily to blue-spectrum light that mimics sunlight. Ideally, you should get plenty of morning light, so even if you’re not outside, try to create natural light spaces in the home using windows or skylights.
The benefits of sunlight through the windows aren’t limited to managing your circadian rhythm. You’ll also save money on electricity, and many people believe natural types of light sources provide the best light to work in. Natural, full-spectrum light also increases serotonin levels, our body’s happy chemical.
Essentially, natural light helps you make the most of daylight lighting during the hours when you need to be most active and alert.
If you can’t make use of natural light because your home simply doesn’t have windows in the right places, all is not lost. You can buy natural daylight bulbs that are specifically designed to provide full-spectrum light similar to that of the sun. These daylight bulbs can be used throughout the house to improve circadian rhythm.
For example, you could work with a natural light lamp on your desk. If you have a home office, consider using daylight bulbs or even natural daylight fluorescent tubes to mimic the light from the sun.
The concept of circadian lighting is definitely something to consider, especially if you’re designing lighting for a new home or installing a completely new lighting system. Essentially, you’re looking to create the best biodynamic lighting for your needs. Circadian lighting design seeks to emulate the natural light cycle of the sun.
In clear terms, circadian lighting is programmed to change throughout the day. At sunrise, your lights provide a warm amber light to help you start the day. You move to a cooler, brighter blue-spectrum light as the day progresses and then back towards red-spectrum light when night arrives. This is perhaps the best example of how lighting design and circadian rhythm work hand in hand.
This is known as a lighting sequence, and if you’d like to know more, Hampshire Light is always available to discuss your needs.
We deal a lot with smart lighting control systems here at Hampshire Light. They are becoming more and more popular as technology advances to give us more control over lighting. Basically, a smart lighting system is interconnected and controllable from a single point (or multiple points, such as smartphones and devices).
You can choose between wired and wireless options, so you can control your home’s lighting via Bluetooth, remote controls, wall-mounted panels and even your smartphone. Not only is this a great way to program more circadian rhythm-friendly light sequences for your home, but it also helps you save money.
Smart lighting control systems can work with sensors to detect when a room needs no light. They can also be programmed on sequences or controlled manually. If you leave the lights on at home by accident, you can turn them off using a smartphone app. Ultimately, smart lighting control systems are an excellent investment for modern homes, and we are more than happy to tailor a lighting system to your needs.
We’ve talked a lot about the home, but another area of great importance for lighting is the workplace. Obviously, every workplace is different and has varying needs when it comes to lighting. For example, many offices choose to use natural light to give people the blue-spectrum light boost they need to remain productive. Natural daylight ceiling lights are also a brilliant option for offices.
Other workplaces, such as hospitals, can benefit from smart lighting systems that give patients more control. Since hospital patients are mostly confined to their rooms, it’s particularly important for them to get the right type of lighting throughout the day and night.
In addition to realising the benefits of good light in the workplace, it’s also important to understand that poor lighting can lead to fatigue, headaches, lack of concentration and other health concerns. Regardless of the type of light you use in a workplace, you should always look to minimise flickering, reduce glare and ensure a proper contrast of light.
Hampshire Light has over 20 years of experience planning and designing lighting for homes and workplaces. Our consultative process is end to end, meaning we take care of everything from planning to installation. We’re your award-winning lighting experts for all residential and commercial lighting, with ample industry experience planning and installing smart lighting systems.
Contact us today to find out more about how we can help create a healthy lighting environment for you. We’d be more than happy to help you achieve your lighting goals.