David Boultbee is a Technical Consultant at Ultra LEDs. Here, he shares his insight into how light can have a powerful effect on your health and wellbeing.
Over the last few weeks, you might have noticed that the days are already starting to get shorter, and you may have felt this affecting your mood. The amount and quality of light that we get has the power to affect how we feel, and even how healthy we are. So, it’s well worth paying attention to any dips in how you’re feeling, and determining whether your light exposure could be to blame.
There are so many different aspects of our wellbeing that can be affected by light and, here, I’m going to take you through just five of them.
It can have an effect on your mood
If you find that you feel quite low during the winter, it might not just be the cold and dreary weather that’s getting you down — it could also be the lack of natural light you’re being exposed to. In the UK, up to 6% of adults actually struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which means they have recurrent depressive episodes with a seasonal pattern (Patient). If you think this might be something you’re suffering from, it’s important that you speak to your doctor who will be able to provide you with a treatment plan, or some little things you can do to relieve the symptoms.
Spending more time outdoors in the wintertime can help, and you can even buy SAD lamps that are designed to replicate natural sunlight, which will help you to increase your exposure.
Exposure to light can affect your sleeping patterns
We all have a circadian rhythm, which is what decides when you feel most awake and most tired during the day. Traditionally, your circadian rhythm would be highly influenced by the sunset and sunrise, as this would indicate when you should be getting out of bed, and when it’s time to fall asleep. However, most of us now spend a lot of time staring at our phones, laptops, and televisions, which are all artificial sources of blue light. It’s quite common for this to then affect how quickly you fall asleep, and sometimes even the quality of sleep that you do get.
As a result, it’s best to try and avoid screens in the hour before you go to bed. And, if possible, dim any lighting in your home to let your body know it’s time to start winding down. You could also choose an activity that you’re going to do every night before bed — such as reading an old-fashioned paperback. Once you’re into a routine of doing this every day, you’ll soon find that you start to feel sleepy as soon as you pick your book up.
Light can have a huge effect on your productivity
The right kind of lighting can really help to boost your productivity, which is why it’s so important to get the lighting right in a workplace. Natural light should be the number one priority so, if you’re setting up an office for your staff or simply trying to find a spot to work from home, make sure there are plenty of windows to keep your mood and productivity levels high.
For when it starts to get dreary or dark outside, LED lighting is great, because it tends to be bright and uplifting. This should help to keep everyone feeling awake and ready to work.
When picking LED lighting, you’ll typically have to choose between warm- or cool-toned bulbs. The right choice will depend on what kind of room you’re buying for. Work areas such as conference rooms and desk spaces will be best suited to blue light, as this will keep people alert, while warmer lighting will be more suitable for the likes of break rooms where you want people to be able to relax.
Your appetite can be affected by lighting
One little-known fact about lighting is that it can even affect how hungry you are. A study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that blue light is associated with an increase in hunger when compared to dim light exposure. So, if you often feel quite hungry when you’re working in your office, or you fancy a snack at night when you’re sitting at home with all the lights on, this could be why.
If you’re tired of feeling hungry at night, even after you’ve had your dinner, try turning the lighting in your home down. Not only will it help to let your body know it should be getting ready to sleep, but it could also help to stave off those midnight munchies that a lot of us are partial to!
Blue light can cause headaches
If you’ve ever suffered from a headache after staring at your computer too long, it’s probably down to the blue light your screen emits. There are some solutions that can help you to avoid this, though. Firstly, it’s best to take regular breaks from looking at your screen, and the Health and Safety Executive recommends taking short frequent breaks, such as 10-minute intervals every hour.
Some devices also come with a nightshift mode that gives the usual blue light that your screens emit a warmer hue that isn’t as hard on the eyes. There are also blue light glasses you can buy, which are specifically designed to protect your eyes and reduce the risk of headaches.
Light can affect your health and wellbeing in so many ways, and it’s important that you pay attention to how it might be having an impact on you. Everything from your mood to your productivity can be influenced by the amount and quality of light you’re exposed to, but I hope I’ve been able to give you some tips that will help with that here.