Lighting may seem like just another practicality, but its role goes far beyond mere illumination. The presence of light and its different characteristics has a multitude of effects on our minds and bodies. Exposure to different degrees and types of light can even influence our physiologies in ways that change our hormone levels, thus affecting how we feel and how well our bodies function.
In this blog post, we delve into how lighting affects us. Knowing the basics will allow you to make more informed decisions about your home’s lighting and use it to live a healthier, more gratifying lifestyle.
Qualities of Light
Lighting has 3 main qualities: brightness, hue, and saturation. Each of these qualities can vary, and the degree can induce different reactions in our physiology and psychology.
Psychological Effects of Light Conditions
The way our environments are lit can have a dramatic impact on our moods and psychology. Two influential qualities include variations of hue and light distribution.
When it comes to light hue, certain psychological effects and associations have been linked with certain colors. There are some overlaps among the colors.
Red - Warmth, intimacy, passion, romance
Pink - Fun, femininity, whimsy
Orange - Warmth, happiness, creativity
Yellow - Happiness, social connection, creativity
Green - Nature, health, wealth, tranquility
Blue - Refreshment, tranquility, intelligence
Purple - Eccentricity, mystery, romance, whimsy
White - Purity, energy, cleanliness
Light distribution can have a similarly powerful influence on the psychological effects that arise, as it controls what parts of a room are emphasized, what activities are encouraged, and how much brightness an occupant is exposed to.
Non-uniform lighting has light sources and intensities unevenly distributed in a space. The psychological effect can strongly differ depending on this composition. For example, intense, direct lighting from overhead is known to cause feelings of tension (i.e. interrogation rooms). In contrast, a relaxing space will have dim overhead lighting and some warm lighting at the room’s perimeter. Private, intimate areas will also be dim, but with even more areas of darkness.
Uniform lighting is quite evenly distributed throughout a space. This is usually achieved with bright overhead lights. Small differences in degree of brightness and the placement of the brightest lighting can yield different feelings, however. A work-oriented environment that stimulates engagement with the task at hand will have its greatest level of brightness focused above the direct working zone, with the room’s perimeter being dimmer. Conversely, an area that is designed to feel spacious will focus brightness on the walls and ceilings, drawing the eye to the room’s furthest reaches.
How Light Affects our Circadian Rhythm
As noted above, certain types of lighting can affect whether we feel relaxed or energized. This goes beyond the psychological, having a concrete impact on our physiologies. Specifically, lighting can influence our circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm is essentially our biological clock. It’s a physiological process that determines our natural sleep and wake cycles. The rhythm spans 24 hours, with certain points at which the body starts and stops production of melatonin, the main hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
A common problem in today’s era is the negative effect devices like smartphones, tablets, and televisions have on our melatonin production. Because these devices emit blue light (most similar to bright natural daylight), they can delay the time at which your body naturally starts to produce melatonin. The effect is typically seen when you use these devices in the evening hours. This is also true of “cool” or higher Kelvin rating light bulbs. For this reason, we choose a warmer hue bulb in residential settings.
Lighting with low (warm) color temperature has been found to promote melatonin production. Red light shows no negative effect, while orange and yellow shows only minor effects. Exposure to brighter lighting is recorded as delaying melatonin production when it occurs later in the evening. Conversely, exposure early in the morning pushes the circadian rhythm forward, prompting melatonin production to occur earlier than normal.
Both brightness intensity and exposure duration have proved to contribute to these effects. Additionally, research concluded that being exposed to bright light in intermittent bursts had a similar influence on the circadian rhythm.
Keeping bright light exposure limited to daytime hours allows for longer periods of sleep and more slow-wave (deep) sleep. Having lights on while sleeping has a particularly harmful effect on the amount of deep sleep one can get. Light is still transmitted through the eyelids, triggering physiological response even when unconscious. It is important to note that even low-temperature hues like orange and red light do have some negative effect on circadian rhythm when they are present during sleep.
Negative Effects of Disrupted Circadian Rhythms:
- Increased risk of depression
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Increased risk of cancer and tumor growth
- Neurotoxin buildup in the brain due to poor sleep
- Lower cognitive (brain) function
- Hunger-inducing hormone production stays active longer
Using Lighting to Better Your Health
If the habits and effects described above sound familiar, the good news is that it’s easy to change your daily light exposure to a healthier pattern. We have a few tips that can help you reinforce your natural circadian rhythm and avoid negative impacts of artificial lighting.
Get Expert Help with Your Interior Lighting
Here at Lucent Lightshop, our goal is to make your home’s lighting a positive influence on your health and happiness. If you need help selecting fixtures that will allow you to maintain healthy illumination levels at any time of day, we’re happy to give you some insights. Send us a message to get in touch with a member of our team.