How LED lighting can be used to improve our moods and physical health

September 15, 2021

Light affects our biology more than we give it credit for thanks to an internal system called the circadian rhythm. Also known as the ‘inner clock’, the circadian rhythm regulates our energy levels in line with the rising and setting sun, and can influence both the duration and quality of our sleep.

As more of our lives become centralised to the indoors, whether it be our offices or our living rooms, our natural circadian rhythms that are reliant from outdoor daylight can be impacted.

Our indoor affairs may be dominated by blue-light-spewing LED screens which inhibit our sleep hormone, melatonin, but without a regular and consistent cycle of light for your circadian rhythm to work off, sleep duration and quality becomes affected which can lead to more serious problems down the line.

This is where the power of ‘human-centric lighting’ (HCL) powered by modern LEDs comes in. HCL is a way of developing lighting that positively affects the human body and mind in a way that also imitates natural light.

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If daylight can affect our moods and energy level, HCL solutions can compensate for a lack of daylight and contribute to a natural circadian rhythm of humans which, in turn, provides optimised work and living environments. There are several types of HCL – we have so far discussed ‘biological lighting’, the kind that enhances our functions and wellbeing through a supported circadian rhythm.

There are other forms of HCL outside of biological lighting, however. Ergonomic lighting, for example, is a way of producing differently coloured light to create ideal visual working conditions.

You may also be interested in: Your work lighting affects your body more than you think

Ergonomic Lighting

Ergonomics is one of the cornerstones of modern office productivity, yet it is confined to the lumber-support desk chair market and is very rarely considered when it comes to lighting.

Despite this, the modern workplace is a breeding ground for a host of bodily issues that come about from not considering all aspects of ergonomics, especially lighting! Outside of ceiling lights, the most impactful source of light in the office comes from computers, so it’s no surprise that Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a common condition that comes from hours of staring at screens.

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According to a 2014 survey, 60% of adults between the ages of 20 and 50 have experienced CVS symptoms, including blurred vision, dry eyes and headaches. Improper lighting glaring from a computer screen can significantly contribute to conditions like CVS and digital eye strain, and so tweaking and adjusting the ergonomics of the lighting can reduce the risk of these symptoms from occurring and becoming a burden in an office worker’s life.

Many offices’ primary lighting source are the overhead ceiling lights. Whilst these are good for illuminating whole rooms, they can also create glare and shadows which can negative effects. This is worsened by lights that flicker or don’t create enough light. Similarly, poor light contrast over extended periods of time (low light from the room and bright light from the screen, or vice versa) can result in eye strain and fatigue.

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Thankfully, experts have identified these impacts on office workers’ lives and their corresponding solutions. Ensuring adequate workstation lighting is one of the most important aspects of ergonomic lighting.

A normal office space should have around 300-500 lux of illumination and takes full advantage of the natural light that is available during the day. Studies have shown that those who have more access to natural light are more alert and even sleep better compared to those with artificially lit offices.

As touched on previously, an over-reliance on direct artificial lighting can lead to more dark spots and shadows around the office. Even those with bright desk lamps in darker offices experience lighting imbalances and have their eye muscles strained and forced to contract and expand constantly in order to adapt to different lit parts of the workspace.

Glare is another similar issue which is caused by a bright source of light that directly enters the eyesight indirectly by reflecting off glossy surfaces, this can cause eye strain due to the eye’s inability to discern anything outside of the brightest light properly.

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Bright areas like windows, which are directly in the field of view cause direct glare whereas indirect glare comes from light reflected from other surfaces.

However, again, there are some tips to help reduce this pesky lighting problem:

  • Place desk and chair 90 degrees from windows to reduce direct glare.
  • Add blinds where possible.
  • Regulate monitor brightness to match the brightness of the surrounding area.
  • Keep monitor away from overhead lighting

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Therapeutic Lighting

Office work isn’t the only place in which light has a drastic effect on mood, health and wellbeing. In fact, lighting can play a part in the treatment of mental and psychiatric conditions.

A common condition comes around every year and affects about 3% of the general population, up to a fifth of those with major depressive disorders and around a quarter of those with bipolar disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mental health condition triggered by the changing of the seasons characterised by prolonged sadness throughout the darker winter months. Because of this, it is sometimes called “winter depression”.

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The shorter winter days mixed with an increasingly indoor lifestyle can create a potent mix for the body’s circadian rhythm and overall mood because of the fact that low light intake has such an impact on aspects of our lives like mood and sleep quality.

Fortunately, there are still solutions that involve LED lighting treatment. Light therapy – also known as phototherapy – involves being exposed to artificial lighting that mimics natural light so that your amount of natural light is (at least somewhat) accounted for. One theory behind the biology of light therapy is that the light naturally triggers the production of serotonin (the feel good chemical) in the brain. Despite this, it’s important to know that light therapy is a supplemental treatment to be used in conjunction with other treatments.

Overall, the power of LEDs and HCL is not something to be underestimated whether you’re an employer or worker. Done correctly, HCL brings a unique boost to our mood in a way that natural light can’t always provide us in our increasingly indoor lifestyles, and is the closest we’ve gotten to bringing the natural world indoors.

Ready to take the step into the future of lighting? Contact Cube Lighting & Design here to see if you qualify for free LED lighting!

Want to keep reading? Check out our latest blog post here: Knowing the common issues around LEDs so you know how to avoid them

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