The countless light fixtures that illuminate our world have different biological and psychological impacts on us, which is why it’s important to understand how lighting affects mood, health and productivity.
The truth is, light tends to influence us more than other external stimuli. It has the power to impact sleep, happiness levels and even cognitive performance. Therefore, humans need to be exposed to adequate lighting levels in the right settings at the right times of day.
DISCLAIMER: Responses to lighting can vary from person to person. The details below are derived from general research and observed trends.
How lighting affects mood, health and productivity
First things first. It’s important to understand the difference between brightness, saturation and hue. Brightness is the amount of light given off by a light source (usually expressed in lumens or lux), saturation is the intensity of a color and hue refers to a color or shade.
It’s proven that natural light tends to make people happier, but since we rely heavily on artificial light, it’s important for us to control the amount of it we need in multiple scenarios. Consider the following:
- Light for day versus night: We usually need higher levels of light to operate during the day and lower levels when we’re winding down at night. Using bright lights at night usually decreases the body’s melatonin levels, essentially throwing off your internal clock and hindering sleep, cognition, hormone release times, blood pressure and glucose levels. When there is a lack of melatonin, people can experience sleep problems that lead to behavioral changes. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also becomes a factor.
- Positioning of light: This has the power to influence how people feel in different spaces. For example, lighting fixtures positioned above eye level can create a feeling of restraint while those below eye level can invoke a feeling of importance.
- Bright light tends to intensify emotions.
- Dim light tends to make us crave unhealthy foods.
- Blue light can make us feel more energetic and alert. (The most likely hue of light to impact our internal clocks.)
- Red light is the least likely hue of light to impact our internal clocks. (This helps increase melatonin levels.)
- Warm lighting creates a more relaxing and intimate setting.
- White light is the most forgiving when it comes to personal appearance. (However, warm, yellow lighting is flattering to the skin.)
The next time you change your light bulb, think about the atmosphere you would like to create. Know that poor lighting can cause eye damage (especially when reading), lead to depression because of vitamin D deficiencies, hurt productivity at work and cause headaches and/or migraines.
Natural light and quality fixtures are key
It’s important for us to have healthy amounts of natural light. However, when there aren’t any windows nearby, quality fixtures become more of a priority.
It’s even more helpful when you have a dimming option, so you can adjust the intensity.