How Circadian Lighting Can Make You Healthy & Happy
Healthy & Sustainable
Do you have difficulty sleeping? Are you often tired and grumpy? Have unexplained health problems? Then it’s possible that your circadian rhythm could be disrupted. Find out the causes and what you can do about it here!
What is The Circadian Rhythm?
Humans and animals are extraordinarily sensitive to light; our natural body rhythms are evolutionarily hard-wired to be governed by the changing light of the sun, from dawn to daylight through to bright midday sun, dusk and darkness.
The link is so strong that when we are exposed to light the brain sends signals to synchronize physiological processes in our bodies. Depending on the amount of light we have been exposed to this can delay, advance or completely shift our body clock. This internal 24-hour cycle is called The Circadian Rhythm.
How Does The Circadian Rhythm Affect Us?
Although our natural circadian daily cycle is set to respond to sunlight, the receptors in our eyes can’t tell the difference between sunlight and artificial light. This means that the lighting we use in the evenings (particularly blue light from screens) extends our daylight cycle way beyond what our bodies are designed for.
The natural rhythm is so inbuilt that the effects of this disruption have been found to cause sleep disorders, eating disorders and ADHD and can lead to increased risk of stroke, obesity, diabetes, depression and heart attacks.
Two of the main hormones that are affected by light are Melatonin and Serotonin.
Melatonin is released into our systems as we sleep in darkness and is a powerful antioxidant, vital for our immune system. It promotes sleep and regulates blood pressure and insulin production. Production of melatonin is suppressed by the delay in darkness caused by blue light from electric lights and screens. Deficiency in melatonin can cause sleep disorders and serious life threatening and physiological diseases.
Serotonin helps regulate mood, appetite, sleep and overall happiness and wellbeing and has been connected to memory and learning. We produce Serotonin when we’re exposed to sunlight and lack of daylight in winter can cause SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Lighting during the waking, daytime phase of the cycle needs to ideally be bright, natural daylight.
Essentially humans need both darkness and bright light to maintain their internal rhythm and to regulate bodily functions such as alertness, digestion and sleep.
What Are The Benefits Of Circadian Lighting
The more we learn about the benefits of circadian systems, the more it seems crazy that we’re not more aware of the health problems associated with light exposure!
To counter circadian rhythm disruption we create bespoke circadian lighting systems in many of our interiors projects that support the natural light cycle. These systems mirror the color temperature changes of sunlight throughout the day and evening within our homes.
When considering the health and wellbeing of our clients we work to The WELL Building Standard recommendations.
The standard shows compelling evidence that light and lighting, when experienced at the right levels at the right times of day and night can help improve alertness, energy levels, concentration, memory and mood and also provide support to overall physiological and psychological health.
Different lighting scenes in different rooms can be designed to go from energising cool bright blue light in the morning through to warm dim light in the evening for relaxation before sleep.
We particularly tend to recommend warm, dim circadian lighting in bedrooms where sleep quality is a huge priority and cold, bright energizing light in the bathroom while you’re prepared for the day ahead.
In general, “warm” light sources bring out the warm colors such as orange, red, and yellow, while “cool” lighting intensifies cool colors such as blue. This concept is referred to as color temperature, which is measured in units called “Kelvin” or “K.” For example, warm incandescent light bulbs typically equal about 2,700K, soft white light falls in the 3,000K range, cool white is about 4,100K, and daylight is about 6,500K.
Circadian lighting can be complimented by blackout roller blinds that connect to lighting schemes, controlling the light from the outside, providing shading from sunlight and blocking out light pollution. Light pollution and lack of natural daylight are both problems in cities along with the colour or tone of lights in our homes and the large amount of artificial light we are exposed to from screen time.
Light sensors are also now becoming more accessible with motion activation for amber night-lights; they’re also useful for energy saving as they switch off lights automatically when they’re not needed.
What’s the Easiest Way To Get Circadian Lighting Installed In Your Home?
Smart Light Bulbs
Technology is moving almost at the speed of light (!!) and now the most cost efficient way to integrate healthy lighting into your home is to use smart bulbs.
The Philips Hue lighting range can provide healthy lighting that follows your natural sleep and wake-up cycle.
Their brightness, color and temperature are controlled via WIFI and they are supereasy to install. The Philips Hue are compatible with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and the Google Assistant so that they can be controlled via voice activation or via their own wire-free wall switch that doubles as a hand-held remote.
Each room in the home can be pre-programmed and then linked in with a central hub to instruct the lighting system through voice activated smart home technology or through your mobile.
The basic kit includes three bulbs and a bridge that links the bulbs to your Smartphone or other controller. They are able to emit light in different temperatures, ranging from warm low light around 2,000 K up to 6,500 K of daylight. Some bulbs have a full rainbow color range to create more dramatic scenes all controlled via the simple to use Smartphone app.
There is added functionality in that the lighting can be controlled via the app to turn on and off when you’re away from home in preparation for your return.
Scene Switch Bulbs
Scene switch bulbs are very similar to the Hue lighting system but are an even cheaper alternative. They’re a smart bulb that is pre-programmed to go through three phases, 100 – 40 – 10 %.
This equates to a daylight setting, late evening setting and a setting for anytime in between. It doesn’t require any other accessories as your existing switch controls it, each time you switch it, the phase changes through the three different settings.
It is so smart it will also remember the last one you used!
Separate Lighting Scenes
Lighting schemes can also be designed by using lots of different light sources within one room, each with different colour values in the bulbs. Different lights can then be used for different times of day.
For example you may use overhead lighting with a daylight bulb during the day then table lamps and LED strips with warmer, dimmer value bulbs for the evening. This way many different lighting combinations can be used to set different scenes.
This is a good approach if you don’t wish to use smart home technology.
Plug In & Fixable Products
Plug in products do exactly what they say, they’re stand-alone products that can just be plugged in at the wall socket as a supplement to your existing lighting system.
Examples of these are the Philips Hue Bloom lamp seen above, or the White Ambiance Wellness lamp below.
The Phoenix wall light seen below, along with the Beyond ceiling pendant can be installed easily as you would a normal light fitting and used independently or as part of your wider hue set up.
Full Home Automation
Full home-integrated automation systems such as Lutron are an established technology that is able to create circadian lighting schemes. They can be linked up with other accessories such as fans; blinds, air conditioning and this can all be synchronized and controlled from a pad on the wall or via remote control. They also have the advantage of automatic phased dimming.
These systems are particularly useful to people who don’t want to use any of the smart home hubs that are currently on the market, however the drawback is that they need to be physically wired into the home, so the cost can be significant.
Do You Think Circadian Lighting Would Make You Healthier & Happier?
There is a general lack of awareness of the effects of artificial light on our bodies. Circadian lighting is now a revolutionary way to prioritize our health and wellbeing at home. By maximizing our functionality and improving sleep quality it can make us feel more energized, improve mood, cognitive processing speed, concentration, memory and behaviour whilst reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Do you feel that your circadian rhythm may be disrupted having read this blog? Are you considering reviewing the lighting in your home? Please share any comments you have with us via social media where we will carry on the conversation!