Understanding of the impact of light on human behaviour has advanced rapidly at the same time as lighting technology has undergone a major evolution with the advent of solid state lighting. It is now possible to use the principles of bio-adaptive lighting easily and cost-effectively in the workplace, at home and especially in sensitive environments such as schools and healthcare. Results from recent case studies and research are very impressive and point the way towards harnessing the beneficial effects of lighting in new ways into many aspects of our lives. It’s not just about feeling better either; the right type and level of lighting can dramatically improve our performance of tasks and increase productivity and the lighting technology that is now being seen in the marketplace provides the means for everyone to realise the benefits of bio-adaptive lighting.
The principle of bio-adaptive lighting is to provide artificial light controlled in such a way as to match the needs of human biological cycles, or circadian rhythms, in the most effective and appropriate way. It provides for improved health and wellbeing and supports aspects of human behaviour that benefit from varied and changeable lighting.
We are all governed to some degree by the circadian cycle (which is a little over 24 hours long) and light information from the environment resets the circadian clock every day to keep us in step. Light is the most powerful synchronizer of the human circadian clock, and the timing of light exposure during the course of a day is responsible for how circadian rhythms are synchronized with the environment.
For example: Late-evening light exposure delays circadian rhythms, resulting in later sleep and wake times, and early-morning light exposure advances these circadian rhythms, resulting in earlier sleep and wake times.
It’s not just about lighting cycles though, as colour plays an important part too. One study from the Light Research Program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia found that blue light strengthens and stimulates connections between areas of your brain that process emotion and language. This means that blue light may, in turn, help people to better handle emotional challenges and regulate mood over time.
Blue light is prevalent in sunlight, so your body absorbs the most during the summer and much less in the winter. Because of this, the researchers suggested that adding blue light to indoor atmospheres, as opposed to the standard yellow lights typically used, may help boost mood and productivity year-round, and especially during the winter.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that we should all now have lots of different coloured lighting since blue is often in white light and having the ability to vary the colour of white light, or the colour temperature as it is known, is a critical factor in effective bio-adaptive lighting. Introducing colour changes and even tints at certain times of the day is a highly effective way to deliver good bio-adaptive lighting.
The physiological effects of using bio-adaptive lighting also stretch beyond managing our circadian rhythms more effectively when we spend so much time in artificial light. In 2010 studies also indicated positive effects of lighting of different colour temperatures on various physical, psychological and performance outcomes of children, such as dental health, physical growth and development, attendance, alertness and academic achievement.
Another less physiological benefit of bio-adaptive lighting is handing control over the lighting to the individual affected by it. It sounds simple but there are very few office or workplace lighting installations that allow the workers to change the lighting. A study by the University of Exeter found that welfare and productivity are most likely to be optimized by practices that empower the workforce and that their experiments showed that empowerment was the key differentiating factor in increasing productivity by up to 32%. Today the solutions now exist with the capability to provide this over the hugely important aspect of lighting.
The role of amBX in Bio-adaptive Lighting is to bring the capability into every lighting installation by providing a control system that enables the principles of Bio-adaptive Lighting to be delivered effectively. Whether through Light-Scenes that support Circadian rhythyms or providing daylight ambience indoors, the beneficial effects can now be realised in a practical and cost effective way.