It’s a well-known fact that our sleep is impacted by the types of light we interact
with, but did you know the rest of your health can also be affected?
From natural light to blue lights, fluorescents to LED, the different light settings
throughout your day can play a big role in your health.
We scoured the internet for the latest research and best hacks to make sure
you’re keeping your bodies and minds healthy and your sleep patterns on point.
So how does lighting affect us?
Light has been proven to impact our brain chemistry, and the ways we use it can
improve our physical and mental health - or degrade it. One of the biggest ways
lighting influences us is via the circadian rhythm, the body’s 24-hour sleep/wake
cycle. This system is essential to the functioning of several other systems in the
body, including the digestive system, metabolism, hormone secretion,
body temperature, heart function and ageing.
And - you guessed it - the circadian rhythm is also extremely sensitive to light.
Our brains have what’s known as a ‘master clock’ that sends signals to regulate
activity in the body. During the day, when we’re exposed to light, this clock tells
our body to keep us awake, alert, and productive, as well as increasing levels of
serotonin and noradrenaline, two chemicals that can have a positive effect on our
mood, outlook, and energy.
At night, our master clock switches gears and kickstarts the production of
melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. Melatonin is also vital to repairing DNA
and vital immunity functions, such as protecting against various types of
cancer. So when you’re snoozing away on your organic latex mattress, this is the
hormone you want pumping through your body.
Now you're itching to know how to get your body clock ticking right? Well, read on…
5 light hacks to keep you healthy
If there’s one easy way to ensure your circadian rhythm stays in check, it’s to
follow the natural light patterns. That means, getting adequate exposure to
sunlight, letting natural light into your home or office, and where possible,
aligning your working hours to match daylight hours.
Many experts claim that just 15 mins of exposure to natural light is enough to
trigger the release of endorphins, which boost your mood instantly. Meanwhile,
other research has shown a strong correlation between workplace daylight
exposure and office workers' sleep, activity, and quality of life. So those with more
time spent in natural light also enjoyed better quality sleep, while avoiding things
like eye strain, headaches, fatigue, and stress often associated with artificial light.
In addition to these benefits, natural light also boosts Vitamin D - essential to
prevent bone loss - and lower the risk of heart disease and cancer, as well
warding off seasonal depression.
Blue light, such as the light emitted from a phone, TV, or laptop, is proven to
squash the production of melatonin, and ultimately interfere with your sleep,
mood, energy levels, and immune system.
Thankfully, in our screen-heavy world, filtering blue light before sleep can improve
sleep quality and mood, although shutting screens off altogether is far more
effective. Blue light glasses, for example, block out the blue light emitted from
screens, and are a great investment if you intend to use your phone, TV or
computer after hours.
You can also dim the brightness on your screens, install blue light-filtering apps,
and set an alarm for an hour before bed to remind yourself to quit using devices.
And if you’re someone who wakes during the night, don’t let your body be fooled
into waking up because you checked your phone - even a few minutes of that
blue light can trigger your circadian rhythm.
A recent study in Australian homes found increased exposure to evening light to
be associated with increased wakefulness after bedtime, not to mention poorer
sleep. But don’t stress, the type of light bulbs you use can vary the impact on your wellbeing.
LEDs might be better for the environment, but they also give off more blue light
than fluorescent bulbs. When it comes to lamps and occasional lighting, try opting
for a warmer white colour (CCT of no more than 3000K) to avoid the blue light
triggers. Even blue or near-blue mood lighting can trigger your circadian system,
whereas a dim red light bulb is the colour that least affects your circadian rhythm.
For the office or indoor days, there’s still a few hacks to help bring natural light in
and awaken your body clock. The key is to maximise natural light, while using
targeted artificial lighting as a complement.
For example, adding a few mirrors to a space will help reflect and amplify the
light from your windows. Lighter paint colours on the walls and ceiling will also
help brighten up your space and reflect natural light better.
When it comes to aiding the nighttime setting of your internal clock, you should
create an opposite atmosphere. That means opting for more muted bedding
accessories, switching to warm white lamps and quality bedroom furniture that
isn’t too vibrant, and if possible, moving your electronics as far away as possible
from your ethically made bed.
And whatever you do, be sure to put your phone on ‘Airplane’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’
mode so that any notifications won’t light up your room in the middle of the night.
Variable lighting that is specific to the task at hand can work a little magic when it
comes to productivity and wellbeing. For example, if you’re working with physical
documents, a task light that points directly at your reading material (rather than an
overhead light) will help decrease eye strain, headaches, and fatigue.
The same principles apply at home; when you’re swapping the screens for a book
before bed, and you’re using a lamp that’s warm white in colour, you’re
maximising the ways lighting can work with your circadian rhythm, rather
than against it.
Keep it natural
With all these hacks, the best way to look after your circadian rhythm, and use
lighting to look after your health (rather than damage it), is by following the natural
day/night patterns. Using the sun as a guide for when to seek out or withdraw
from light sources, you’ll be able to build habits that let your body function at
And when you become more intentional with the lighting in your life, you’ll notice
all the health benefits - better sleep, increased mood, more energy, less
illness - that come with these practices.