Until recently most of us who design and specifying lighting have been working in two dimensions but now there is a third. Our decisions about lighting tend to range between the aesthetic or functional. In essence we decide on a scheme that matches the purpose of a space or to make it beautiful. Now the unfolding realm of how light can impact our health offers a whole new world of opportunities many of which are now commercially viable.
I recently attended a day’s conference on Circadian Lighting and Health organised by Photonstar LED. Contributors from Arup, Health England and Steven Lockely professor from Harvard who specialises in neuroscience and sleep. It was a true moment of revelation concerning the practical application of this technology for all designers and I am excited to convey the real opportunities we should all appreciate in our design practice.
Amazing Fact 1
Recent history has discovered that our eyes have a cell (SCN cell) that is hard wired directly back to our internal body clock within the brain. Yes we all have an internal clock that is incredibly accurate and sends signals out throughout the body. Each individual’s clock will run near a 24 hr cycle but it is often not exact – it can vary in terms of accuracy. Our bodies recalibrate this clock with light everyday and this is why blind people have the added challenge of becoming out of sync with day and night.
So as designers – what do we do with that information?
We need to embrace the fact that if we produce the right type of light we can reprogram our body clock. But what is the right type of light…?
Amazing Fact 2 – The right type of light will manipulate our levels of stimulation.
Fact – Shift workers have the most accidents at 5 am in the morning.
Fact – Astronauts who see day and night every 90 mins need light to tune their bodies for the tasks they have to complete.
This SCN cell is most stimulated by the wavelength of light within the blue spectrum. Give it a blue enriched diet then it’s firing on all cylinders. Give it red and we’re getting ready to sleep…
So we should paint our hotel rooms red and our schools blue!? Well that may not be great aesthetic but we can assist this natural factor with the colour of light we provide.
As a future upgrade to the Space Station NASA are implementing a lighting system that will calibrate to this principle. Before a space walk the astronauts will subject themselves to a period of 6500K blue enriched light, invigorating the body. To induce sleep they will bathe in very warm (blue free) light before they slip on their eye mask.
Question – what does this have to do with me if I am specifying for a hotel?
Does your clients hotel / restaurant / bar want to make money – yes. You want to give them extra warm welcoming light to invite them to settle comfortably – of course – but what colour of light is going to stimulate them more to spend money you may ask?
Question – what does this have to do with me if i am specifying for a residential project?
We are mostly all lovers of 2700K and 3000K at home – the warm end of the scale and rightly so as it’s a comfortable light to live with. Balance this with a blue enriched higher output of light in areas of task activity – study, exercise. Preset the body with warm light before sleep – avoiding devices and screens that will suppress sleep with a (surprisingly) small dosage of light containing blue.
How can we practically implement this change of light colour?
Coming onto the market now – lighting that will tune itself according to the natural rhythm of our bodies – and help tune our bodies to the environment and tasks at hand.
Do call us if you want to review of the product opportunities that are currently available and that are trusted by Orange lighting.