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A Joint-Frontier for the Health and Lighting Industries
Before artificial light took over the industrialized world during the late 19th century, humans were much more connected to and affected by the 24-hour light cycle. Our biology is structured around the light from the sun (or its absence). We call these natural cycles of the mind and body circadian rhythms.
Throughout the course of a 24-hour day, your brain’s level of alertness will fluctuate up and down unconsciously. However, our modern lifestyles are dominated by artificial light and, overall, our sleep patterns are suffering as a result.
164 million Americans (68%) reported poor sleep at least once a week, leading to a growing dependency on prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids, according to consumer reports.
Though Americans are getting poorer sleep overall, there is a new and exciting technology that utilizes the versatility of LED lights to help simulate the light patterns that are optimal for healthy circadian rhythms.
Circadian lighting is a smart tech concept that seeks to reduce the harmful impacts of artificial light on human beings. This approach to lighting is a new joint frontier for the lighting and health industries. Proper implementation of this new technology can lead to a health and productivity revolution at home and in the workplace.
There are three main ways to implement a circadian lighting system:
This method attenuates the intensity of the lighting to match the time of day. It starts dim in the morning and grows and then fades with the intensity of the sun. With intensity tuning, the color of the light emitted is fixed. This is the cheapest method and can be achieved with an automatic dimmer.
Color tuning, as its name implies, not only changes intensity throughout the day but it also accounts for the color of light, or CCT (Correlated Color Temperature). Paradoxically, when the sun is brightest there are “cooler” wavelengths of light present – blue light. At dawn and dusk, there is an abundance of “warmer” wavelengths of light – reds.
The color has less to do with “temperature” and more to do with the angle of the sun and how much atmosphere its rays have to pass through to get to your eye. Regardless, the blue and red-light waves send opposing signals to your brain. Blue light keeps you alert – red light makes you groggy. With color tuning, these changes are artificially accounted for.
Stimulus tuning takes this concept a step further. It selectively inhibits or exaggerates specific wavelengths of blue light at different times of the day to achieve the desired effect – more alertness or less alertness. This method targets the specific harmful blue wavelengths of light that trigger melatonin suppression in the brain, which keeps you awake at night.
The medical community has outlined how disruptions in the circadian cycle lead to an increased risk of metabolic, immunodeficiency and cardiovascular diseases as well as mental illness. While scientific evidence continues to grow in favor of adopting circadian lighting systems, there will also be an increase in consumer awareness regarding these products and their benefits.
Upwards of 87% of Americans who work a standard 9-5 are suffering from a combination of fatigue, psychological stress, and poor health as a result of unhealthy sleeping habits and a lack of healthy daylight.
Expect to see more offices retrofitting their lighting systems in an effort to make their workplace a healthier environment. Also, start anticipating more circadian-based technologies to become standard features when shopping for housing or renting apartments.
Up until recently, LED light manufacturers were prioritizing energy efficiency through their research and development. However, in order to compete, future manufacturers will also have to prioritize the biological impact of their lighting.
The future of circadian lighting will likely see the use of smart biosensors that automatically adjust their corresponding lights to the needs of the human body in an effort to craft an environment that nurtures the desired mental state of the consumer in real-time.
Contact your ZLEDLighting representative if you would like to incorporate circadian lighting into your home or business.