After attending the American Lighting Association conference in Austin, Texas, I am now more intrigued by circadian rhythm and how it is a key to good health. We’ve always thought that the key was diet and exercise, but now let’s add lighting to the mix. I couldn’t be more thrilled!
Circadian rhythm, if you break it down, is circa = approximately and dies = day. What we want to experience for great health is bright mornings and dim nights – meaning that better light will bring better sleep. What you want for ideal circadian rhythm is to wake up and experience great light until evening when you want to experience dimmer lighting for optimum sleep. So, I guess that means we want to “approximate” day for better sleep at night.
How is this achieved? Well, quite obviously for most, get up and open the curtains, turn on the lights, and, ideally, go outside! At night, dim the lights and put away your I-pads and other smart devices. For those that work odd hours, it is more difficult. Studies show that shift workers are more susceptible to hereditary diseases. This is an ideal situation where you need to approximate day to get your circadian rhythm in check!
Other important places where lighting can help regulate circadian rhythm is the workplace, nursing homes, etc. if there is little natural light. It is important to have bright lighting to improve productivity in the workplace – especially at the start and middle of the day. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for those that work shift work in a dim lab, and then they go home to bed – when and where do they get their rhythm? I imagine that senior citizen homes and hospitals need to pay close attention to bright days and dim nights because here, health is a foremost concern!
The ALA is soon going to introduce a campaign for Better Light, Better Sleep – because light isn’t just for vision anymore. It is for good health, extended living, and fighting disease. It is important to correlate sleepiness with darkness and alertness with lightness. More scientifically, the hypothalamus in the brain controls the circadian rhythm by receiving signals from the eyes and then controls the amount of melatonin released. The scientists have discovered that we need to measure the footcandles at the eyes (not the countertops as we typically measure) because the eyes are the receptors.
The seminar we attended was a little technical (the panel was a bunch of scientists, so what do you expect?), but in laymen’s terms, we need brighter light to wake up and get through the day and we need to shut down and dim the lights at night. When you think of bright lights, it’s not super high white/blue Kelvin – 3000 Kelvin is perfect. And don’t try the interrogation lightbulb in your face -- especially for the older generation, we need to hide the lightbulbs with diffusers to reduce glare and have layers of light because that means we all feel better in the room! We are just aiming for more lumens (amount of light) – not a suntan!
While I don’t have all the information, the consensus is that you need light to wake up and you need to curb that light at night to achieve better sleep which equals better health. So, don’t stop exercising and eating right – but add these lighting tips for good health. If you would like a consultation, contact the experts at Elume!