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How Lighting Impacts on our Mood and Health

Key Points

The amount of light you are exposed in your home and workplace can make a huge impact on your health. Not only the amount by the type of lighting too. In this guide, you will find key information around the types of lighting and their effects on our mood and health.

In this guide:

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How Can Light Affect Your Mood?

Different levels of brightness and lighting temperature can trigger different emotions. Some people may even find that they associate certain rooms with being in a particular mood, e.g., always feeling anxious in a room, without realising that it is caused by the type of lighting used.

Here is a breakdown of how different lighting can affect your body, and as a result, your mood:

  • Poor Lighting – Inadequate lighting can cause eye fatigue and headaches, which can result in a person feeling depressed or even ill.
  • Poor Natural Lighting – Lack of natural daylight has been proved to trigger depression and can also have a negative effect on the immune system.
  • Bright Lighting - Bright lighting stimulates the mind, hence being great for task illumination.
  • Dim Lighting - Low lighting quiets the senses and can induce drowsiness, making it a great choice for the bedroom.
  • Dim Lighting and Harsh Contrast – This lighting combination can cause eye-strain when used in place of task illumination.
  • Excessive Artificial Lighting - This causes rooms to appear overly bright, which can hurt the eyes. Over bright environments can also make a person feel nervous and on edge.
  • Insufficient Lighting – When exposed to insufficient lighting for long periods of time it can cause emotional stress and even physical illness.
  • Natural Lighting – Light that comes in through windows and skylights has calming effects on the minds and emotions.
  • Uncovered Globes – The dazzling effect that comes from uncovered globes can cause irritation to both the eyes and the mood, not to mention disturbing the harmony of the space.

Lighting Laws: the right to light

Research shows that an adequate lighting can improve mood and energy levels. On the other side of the spectrum is poor lighting. This can cause bouts of depression, low energy and other negative impacts to your body.

With these effects on the body, it is unsurprising that the UK has laws ensuring everyone has the ‘Right to Light’.

What is ‘Right to Light’?

The UK law states that half of your workplace should be lit by natural light, and more than half of your home should be naturally lit. Surprisingly, these aren’t recent laws based on current medical findings; they have in fact been in place since 1832 when the Prescription Act was instated.

Right to Light in the Workplace

If you feel as though your workplace is too dark or if there aren’t enough windows, the Right to Light law states that you are entitled to request that your employers take measures to resolve this.

Right to Light at Home

At home, Right to Light protects you from nearby properties extending in a way that would restrict the amount of natural light that your home receives. This law can also prevent building work from happening, even if planning permission has been granted.

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Why is Exposure to Different Levels of Light So Important?

Our internal body clocks are dictated by the levels of light that we are subjected to at certain times of the day, and the right quantity of the right intensity of light enables our body to function around the 24 hour clock. For example, bright light in the morning helps us wake up and feel alert and energised, whereas dimmer light at night cues us to go to sleep and stay asleep.

According to Dr Victoria Revell, a chronobiologist at the University of Surrey:

'Light is critical for our health and wellbeing. Ensuring that we receive adequate light levels at the appropriate time of day benefits our alertness, mood, productivity, sleep patterns and many aspects of our physiology.'

What Are The Benefits of Sunlight?

Aside from the obvious dangers of the sun’s damaging UV rays, it also has many nutritional benefits. It helps the body produce vitamin C and also raises the levels of vitamin D. Sunlight has numerous positive effects on the body, including:

  • Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones
  • It helps alleviate depression and S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
  • It aids the absorption of other vitamins and minerals
  • Vitamin D is also believed to help minimise the chances of developing several types of cancer
  • Can help lower blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular disease
  • Improve sleep by keeping our circadian rhythm in check
  • Increase energy by increasing serotonin levels
  • Help with weight control with increase serotonin levels

What is the Best Lighting for Productivity?

Many offices have moved on from the ‘one size fits all’ style of lighting, and are realising that different tasks require different types of lighting. For example, bright lighting is most effective for skilled, production line type tasks, whereas creative roles benefit from dimmer, more ambient lighting.

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Natural lighting

It has been proved that employees whose work station is near a window or in an area equipped with a skylight, are less prone to negative emotions, are able to easily focus on tasks, and in general are more productive and happy with their work. Therefore, ensuring that the workplace has adequate natural lighting will not just benefit employees, it will also will have a positive effect for employers, as they will reap the rewards that comes hand in hand with a happy workforce.

Task lighting

Like the name suggests, task lighting helps people complete various tasks. Locations such as kitchens, offices and warehouses often use task lighting as this is where many people complete their tasks. These tasks are often physical tasks such as cooking, sewing, operating machinery etc.

The main attribute of task lighting is Brightness. Task lighting is bright in order to increase visibility and ensure people can complete their tasks optimally.

Task lights are used for their practicality, rather than aesthetic. The type of task light required depends on the task at hand. Some examples of task lighting includes:

  • Reading lamps – for increased visibility whilst reading
  • Under cabinet lighting – for additional visibility for areas that may darker due to shadows
  • Kitchen spotlights – to ensure optimum visibility when using sharp objects/cooking.

Ambient lighting

Ambient lighting is more decorative than task lighting. They can be used as standard lights to illuminate the room or create an atmosphere. Ambient lighting is flexible and can be used in a variety of situations, such as:

  • Meditation space – meditation has become incredibly popular in recent years and is now used as a productivity tool. Ambient lighting that is set to a dimmer means that a room can switch between standard lighting and dimmer more relaxing light.
  • Break room – in order to increase productivity, people need to be relaxed and happy. Ensuring a pleasant, nice atmosphere in a breakroom ensures workers can take the time to relax before getting back to work.

LED lights

LED lights offer versatility, meaning they can be used for task and ambient lighting. There have been several studies to discover how LED lighting impacts the productivity of people at work. Due to their cost-effectiveness and environmental benefits, LED lights have become the standard for people’s lighting needs. LED lights also have a benefit for productivity due to their versatility. This includes:

Bright light, low energy usage

Bright lights are required for task lighting. For standard halogen or fluorescent bulbs, this can require a lot of energy. This amount of energy usage can lead to expensive bills.

LED lights can provide brighter light for a fraction of the energy usage (compared to fluorescent or halogen). Because LED lights run at a lower energy usage, they also run at lower temperatures improving safety.

Variety of colour temperatures

Colour temperature is the colour of light emitted from a bulb. Colour temperatures vary from very cool white (6000k) to extra warm white (2700k).

Very cool light is also known as daylight. Daylight colour temperature matches that of the sun, providing bright, white light. Daylight colour temperature is excellent for dark offices as it helps emulate the feeling of natural light.

Warm white colour temperatures suit ambient lights better. They can create a cosy, warm atmosphere that is reminiscent of candlelight.

You can find out more about LED colour temperatures by visiting our guide: what does colour temperature mean?

Does light affect melatonin levels?

Potentially.

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain which helps regulate the sleep-wake pattern. If your melatonin levels are altered, this may causes issues with your sleeping pattern.

A 2011 study found that exposure to artificial light may affect melatonin levels and therefore cause sleeping issues. The study suggested that exposure to bright artificial light suppresses the release of melatonin. These sources of bright light can include:

  • Digital devices such as TVs and phones
  • Bright lights such as downlights and other tasks lights

This suggests that people should try and minimise the amount of bright, artificial light they intake before bedtime. Try leaving your phone away from the bed and reading next to a low-brightness bedside lamp.

The study also mentions that further studies are required to confirm this hypothesis. Therefore, take the results with a pinch of salt.

What Medical Conditions can be Treated Using Light?

Although natural light has a range of benefits, light therapy using artificial UV lights can also be very effective when used to treat certain disorders, including:

  • SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
  • Depression.
  • Skin Conditions

There are also some anecdotal reports of people recovering faster from colds and even surgical procedures if they are exposed to a certain amount of sunlight each day.

What is SAD?

SAD (or Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that is brought on at a particular time of year, most commonly during the winter months. Individuals suffering with SAD may experience:

  • Low mood.
  • Reduction in pleasure in everyday activities.
  • Feeling irritable.
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Indecisiveness.
  • Tearfulness.
  • Feeing stressed or anxious.
  • A reduced sex drive.
  • An increased appetite.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • A lack of interest in life.
  • Lethargy and reduced interest in being active.
  • An increased need for sleep.
  • Feelings of despair.

People who suffer with SAD tend to experience these symptoms in the autumn, when the hours of sunlight begin to decrease. The symptoms generally get worse as winter draws in and then, in the majority of cases, the symptoms lessen as spring approaches and the levels of sunlight increase. Obviously the nature and severity of the symptoms will vary depending on the individual.

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How Can SAD be Treated?

As SAD is generally attributed to a lack of exposure to natural light, the most obvious step is for sufferers to try to increase their exposure to sunlight. Spending some time outside every day, even if it is just a short walk during a lunch break, will help, and it has been proven that just fifteen or twenty minutes spent in natural light each day can make a huge difference.

It is also possible to help treat and prevent SAD, depression and low moods at home with specialist lighting. LSO stock products which can be effectively used as and when necessary for year round mood balancing therapy, for example, the Full Spectrum 5ft 58w 172 Activa Tube.

If you think you might suffer from SAD, book an appointment with your GP. Many people suffer from lower moods in the colder months, and the ‘Winter Blues’, (a milder version of SAD) are very common. Light therapy can be beneficial for anyone in this situation and may be the best option of finding a glimmer of sunlight in the long, dark and gloomy British winters.

If you have any questions about the best lightbulbs for natural lighting or to brighten your mood get in touch with Lamp Shop Online on 0843 178 2828.

Skin conditions

Skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and vitiligo can be treated through a therapy known as LED light therapy.

LED light therapy uses Ultraviolet light (known as UV light), which is a part of natural sunlight. Light therapy uses measured levels of ultraviolet light on the areas of your skin that require treatment.

The UV light helps reduce your body’s immune response which helps reduce inflammation on your skin. Whilst this isn’t a permanent cure for the skin condition, it can help sooth symptoms, providing some relief.

Light therapy is often administered in a hospital. You will need to go a few times a week for a period of time.

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Published 02/04/2020

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