As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to spend more time at home, now might be the time to address the out-dated lighting found in most households.
For thousands of years, human beings relied on the sun and fire as our only sources of light. This resulted in internal processes being regulated by exposure to the varying colours and intensities of light.
“Digestion, mood, attention span, sleep onset and quality are all examples of things that can be affected by this relationship,” said Cory Tretiak, president of Reliable Lighting Solutions.
Though these internal processes haven’t changed, the way of lighting our world has. Before the advent of electric lighting our evenings were spent largely in darkness, but artificial lighting has now illuminated our nights and the widespread use of blue light has been shown to impact sleep and, potentially, overall health.
“Traditional lighting has only one colour, which can become a significant problem if blue-rich lights are installed in areas intended for rest and relaxation, or adequate blue light exposure is not being achieved throughout the day,” Tretiak said.
A Harvard Medical School publication states, “At night, light throws the body's biological clock—the circadian rhythm—out of whack. Sleep suffers. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.”
Sleep problems are one of the more talked about issues associated with blue wavelengths. According to Harvard Medical, light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin – a hormone that influences circadian rhythms – but blue light at night does so more powerfully.
“When we are exposed to blue-rich light too close to bedtime, it delays sleep onset and quality, which can have a cascading effect on our health,” Tretiak said.
“Anyone can survive one night's bad sleep but as the nights of low quality sleep stack up, so too do the effects on our personal and professional health. After a bad night's sleep, it can be hard to focus and lead to irritability that might cause us challenges interacting with the people in our lives. This stress can spike the same hormones triggered by blue light and this can further compound our inability to get a good night's sleep.”
Additionally, he said, studies indicate a single sleepless night increases cravings for sweets and diminishes our ability to resist them.
“This feedback loop opens the door to conditions like sleep apnea that further compounds the challenges of getting a good night's rest,” Tretiak said.
Further studies, according to Harvard Medical, have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
The health risks associated with melatonin suppression could extend beyond sleep issues. According to Harvard Medical, "very preliminary" research might explain and association of lower melatonin levels and cancer.
While these risks may have you considering going dark, human-centric lighting (HCL) could be the answer.
“HCL is electric light that supports and enhances the natural processes of our bodies by closely mimicking the properties of natural sunlight,” Tretiak said, adding more than 90 per cent of interior spaces are not circadian supportive.
“HCL gives people access to a full spectrum of light colour that is programmed to change throughout the day. Much like the sun, days begin in red rich light, peak around noon with high blue light content, and move back to red rich light around sunset.
Another key difference between traditional lighting and HCL is the quality of light emitted. HCL is designed to eliminate flicker and buzzing, which is common in traditional lighting and even some LED light sources.
“In most commercial and industrial spaces, lighting designers choose options that contain more blue light, which is proven to increase alertness and general productivity,” Tretiak continued. “At home, however, people generally prefer warmer lights to create a welcoming and relaxing atmosphere, resulting in trouble concentrating and retaining information. HCL allows homeowners to have the best of both worlds and ensure their bodies’ natural rhythms are supported by the lighting in their space.”
According to LEDs Magazine, healthcare facilities are switching to cooler lighting in staff areas to keep employees alert, while using warmer lighting in patient rooms to make them more comfortable. Schools are utilizing HCL to “calm students and to keep them alert depending on the time of day,” while workplaces are exploring the relationship between lighting that feels more natural and productivity retention.
“HCL is more than just light, it can be a tool to return balance to your life,” Tretiak said.
“At work HCL has been proven to increase productivity and attentiveness. At home, HCL can help you fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer.”
Homeowners interested in making the switch can start by calling Reliable Lighting Solutions for an inspection to help determine if HCL is right for them. If the owner chooses to move ahead, the company creates a clear action plan personalized to the space.
“Sometimes projects are as simple as swapping out light bulbs, while others require relocation or addition of light fixtures and controls. It depends on a number of factors including how a space is being used, access to natural light and how the original lighting is placed. We clearly outline this in our inspections,” Tretiak said.
“For soon-to-be-built homes, we can aid in the design process, which often reduces the total cost of a system.”
The cost to make the switch varies by project, but Tretiak stressed the value goes beyond the price tag.
“With cheap LED bulbs available for $1 at the hardware store, HCL is almost certainly more expensive. However, it has the ability to affect your family's health and your business' productivity in ways that traditional lighting can't,” he said.
“In terms of value, HCL is manufactured to a higher standard than traditional lighting, which means that it will last longer and need to be replaced less frequently. It also consumes less power than traditional lighting, so you can expect a decrease in your power bill as well."
For more information, visit reliablelighting.ca