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Brighter Days: Can Proper Lighting Increase Your Health?

How light affects the body

Could the lighting system used to brighten a room also contribute to the health of the people in the room? With circadian lighting, the answer is a resounding yes. 

The biological functions of the human body function on 24-hour cycles known as circadian rhythms. When the body’s internal clock is disrupted so are many of its essential functions. Light exposure is one of several factors affecting our circadian rhythms, which in turn regulates the timing of the release of melatonin, a hormone that signals to the body when it is time to sleep. Although modern living has given us many advantages and comfort, it has greatly limited the amount of time that we spend outdoors. Being that indoor lighting is primarily concerned with making rooms more visible, the spectrum of light we are often exposed to often has a disruptive negative effect on our bodily functions, particularly sleep.

The importance of sleep in healthcare

According to the CDC, at least one-third of American adults suffer from a chronic lack of sleep. Chronic sleep loss greatly increases the risk of a vast number of health problems including heart disease, decreased metabolism and obesity, diabetes, depression and anxiety, and even cancer. Given that good sleep is such a huge factor in maintaining good health, the medical sector is starting to take notice of circadian lighting, with hospitals and other care centers implementing the new technology in growing numbers. During hospital stays, patients often wake (or are woken) several times during the night. This leads them to try to make up for lost sleep during the daytime. This, in turn, disturbs the body’s natural sleep cycle, a problem that can prolong recovery time. Doctors and researchers believe the lighting will promote faster healing times by promoting healthy sleep patterns.

How circadian lighting works 

Circadian lights produce a low-intensity warm color temperature in the early morning, a cooler color temperature during the mid-morning, and high-intensity in the afternoon. In the evening, the color drops back to low-intensity warm color temperature. This design is precisely engineered to counter the disruption to regular sleep-wake cycles that most patients experience in hospitals. The dim and artificial lights in many hospitals are usually not bright enough during the day or dark enough during the night to maintain the body’s natural pattern.  “The idea is to tune indoor lights to mimic the brightness and color spectrum of the sun as it changes during the day. Think bright, bluish light in the morning that gradually grows more amber at dusk and ultimately gets as dark as is possible to get in a medical environment” (ecmag.com).

Miller Electric is currently implementing many biocentric lighting systems for medical centers and hospitals. It is our hope that the work of our project managers and field workers will contribute to the effective recovery of all patients in need.

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