How Lighting Affects Mood

Before the invention of artificial lighting, we relied on nature to provide light needed to perform daily tasks. We rose with the sun and fell asleep to the stars and the moon. Sounds pretty magical right? 

Now, it is hard to imagine a day without artificial lighting. We really only notice it is there in its absence, as we find ourselves wandering through a dark home looking for a glass of water in the middle of the night. In the moments of darkness, we begin to appreciate the value of light. But, much like life, with light there also comes darkness. 

Through artificial lighting, we have unintentionally created our own world, separated by the natural rhythm of our earth and our bodies. This disconnect has increased the risk of insomnia, stress, depression and other deficiencies. Simply put, artificial light has screwed up the natural alignment with our bodies internal alarm clock. Research has also shown that light directly impacts our concentration, appetite mood and other aspects of daily life.

How Our Eyes Perceive Light

One thing that fascinates me is how our brain receives information from the environments we place ourselves in. Maybe one of the most interesting topics is how light can affect the brain. You may have heard of a term called Circadian Rhythm. 

Circadian rhythms are linked to your body’s internal clock and your sleep/wake cycle. Circadian rhythms are important in determining your natural sleeping and feeding patterns. Brain wave activity, hormone production, cell regeneration, and other important biological processes are determined by this cycle.”

Source:  Endel

Circadian Rhythm is controlled by an area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), this part of the brain is responsible for controlling body temperature and behavior. When light enters through the retina, it then enters through the brain pathways starting with the SCN. SCN is also responsible for modulating neurotransmitters and hormones such as serotonin and melatonin (along with the Pineal Gland). The SCN adjusts its circadian phase according to the input of ambient light levels and its spectral composition, sending signals that control sleep and wake cycles, mood, cognitive function, and more to the rest of the body.

Sources: NCBI

The Problem With Today’s Lighting Systems

As you can see, lighting can have a profound effect on our everyday bodily functions. Great lighting sits on the crossroads of art and science, the best designers can both intuitively understand how to light a space for beauty and effectiveness and use the science of lighting to plan these results effectively.

In today’s world, we spend 90% of our time indoors, under artificial lighting at the workplace and at home. Many of these environments have insufficient or harsh lighting, causing stress, depression, poor eating habits, and an overall sense of well being.

So what are the common problems we see in interior lighting systems?

  • Lighting in the wrong places
  • Lighting not placed on dimmers
  • Lack of task lighting in areas such as the kitchen
  • To many recessed lights
  • Incorrect color temperature of light
  • No accent lighting or use multiple lighting sources

In addition, we have thrown in regular use of computers, cell phones, and tablets all which emit a bright blue light that further impacts our internal alarm clocks that are naturally designed to regulate the body. 

It is no wonder that sleep disorders, depression and mental health issues are on the rise in today’s world. Lighting is only one piece of the puzzle, but maybe one of the most crucial. If our internal alarm clocks are so out of whack from sitting under static artificial lighting all day, we are not only missing a crucial amount of needed Vitamin D which promotes immunity and decreases depression. But we are literally confusing the body on when to go to bed and wake up, causing restless, sleepless nights and groggy mornings which have us reaching for the nearest cup of caffeine, sending the body yet again into another unhealthy spiral.

What’s the Solution and How Can Lighting Work for Us Rather than Against Us?

This can all sound a little overwhelming, you may be thinking: “We cannot live without light!”. And you are absolutely right which is why designers, architects, engineers, and scientists have found a solution, circadian rhythm lighting systems suitable for all indoor environments. 

This is called Human-Centric Lighting (you may also hear the term Dynamic Lighting). It is a holistic approach to lighting that includes all aspects of how lighting affects well-being, productivity and comfort in a space. 

Human-Centric Lighting is accomplished with color changing LED’s that also have the ability to dim. Pretty simple right? Much like the sun’s position in the sky causes changing in the color and intensity of the outdoors, these lighting systems do the same through tunable white light.

Many of these systems can be placed on a timer or controlled with technology. They turn on in the morning with a cool blue-white light, and through the day tune to a white light. And then at night, gradually tune into a warm fiery light that will prepare your body for rest. This shift from cool to warm, is what will charge up that melatonin production.

Finally, lighting the way mother nature intended. Having a Human-Centric lighting system not only allows you to set the mood at any given time. But also, we have the chance to impact our health and well-being in a holistic way. 

Sounds Simple Right?

Thanks to advancements in technology, achieving human-centric lighting has become easier than ever. But, it also presents some challenges when it comes to selecting paint colors, fabrics, finishes, all of which can change greatly with lighting.

This can become very frustrating when selecting one of the hundreds of options of paint colors out there. And then figuring out how to tie it all together? This is where the value of an interior designer comes in. Interior designers are formally trained and accredited professionals, who have spent years understanding the effects of light and color, balance and harmony. 

The peace of mind you will gain from having an interior designer on your project will leave you feeling confident in your decisions. Interior designers are also trained to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, so they will additionally be able to help you select materials that will not harm your health. 

At the end of the day, our health is one of the most important things in our lives. It is a state of complete mental, physical and social well being. 

If you are ready to take back your health in a holistic way through Evidence Based Design, call use for a free Discovery Call.

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