Was one of your resolutions to be more productive, get more sleep, or be happier this year? If so, you might want to consider changing the lighting in your home, especially if you work there, too. “We believe light has a great impact on physical, emotional, and mental health,” says Dr. Samer Hattar with the National Institute of Mental Health.
The chief of the institute’s section on light and circadian rhythms explains that all living organisms, including humans, have evolved with the natural cycles of day to night to day. “We have internal clocks that allow us to anticipate when to sleep, when to wake up, when our digestive enzymes should be secreted for food processing, when to go to sleep, etc.” Our circadian rhythms are naturally synced to daylight, he explains, and they do their best to keep us sleeping until morning. “There is a lot of evidence of the disruptive effects of light on human behaviors when light is given at the wrong time of day,” the scientist points out. “This is most obvious when people expose themselves to the bright, blue-shifted white light of electronic devices such as iPads before their bedtimes.” What are the best times for different lighting types? Hattar says:
- A bright blue daylight shifted white light is better for studying and concentration.
- A dim red shifted white light is better for relaxing.
A relatively new design science – called human-centric lighting – seeks to optimize ideal circadian cycles by reproducing daylight as closely as possible, and adjusting automatically to maintain that resemblance through different dayparts. “Human-centric lighting is not a new lighting system or product,” declares Jie Zhao, head of Delos Labs, the research and development team within wellness real estate and technology firm Delos. “It is a concept that leverages every aspect of lighting design, products and controls to benefit human needs. For example, glare and flicker of light can trigger a headache, and access to daylight can improve people’s cognitive performance. Each feature must be human centric to ensure the actual lighting performance is supporting human health and well-being,” he explains.
“HCL is still very much in its infancy within the residential sector,” observes Nic Black, managing director with The Pyramid Group technology integration firm in London. It has been used in the education and healthcare sectors, he notes, and is starting to be used in the residential realm now. One Pyramid client family commutes long distances to its St. Andrews vacation home and wanted to see if Black’s HCL suggestion could reduce jet lag at the end of these trips. The results so far have been positive, if not entirely conclusive, he shares: “They have reported a sense of calm and relaxation that the lighting system creates since taking occupancy.”