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How Lighting Impacts on our Mood and Health

Key Points

The amount of light you experience can have a dramatic impact on your mood and health, at work and at home.
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Find out more about upgrading the lighting in your home or workplace
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In your everyday environment, it is amazing how many seemingly unimportant elements can have a significant impact on your health. One huge contributing factor to your general wellbeing is the amount of natural light that you are exposed to both at home and in the workplace. So much so, that there is actually a law in this country, protecting your '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.


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 which 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.

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.

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.


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.

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.
  • Psoriasis.

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.
  • Feeling 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.


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 light bulbs for natural lighting or to brighten your mood get in touch with Lamp Shop Online on 0113 887 6270.

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Published 2015/04/17