Physiologists and psychologists have long studied the effects of artificial and natural light on various health aspects, from sleep cycles to mood.
Unlike conventional incandescent or fluorescent light sources, phosphor-converted LED lighting emits light at specific wavelengths that have been shown to directly affect users’ health and circadian rhythm. LEDs are also more inherently controllable than other light sources. Lighting controls can help adjust the environment for health benefits and comfort, as well as help improve medical providers’ ability to care for patients in a healthcare setting.
Here are four health benefits of LED lighting:
1. LEDs help align circadian rhythm.
Eliminating a person’s exposure to daylight and the temporal cues it provides can have consequences on their circadian rhythm. Lighting with certain blue wavelengths are known to suppress the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps us relax and fall asleep. Reduced melatonin leads to heightened alertness and can potentially increase productivity, though extended suppression will also make it more difficult to fall asleep and can upset normal sleep patterns. This suppression happens naturally in response to sunlight exposure. Sunlight comprises a greater amount of blue wavelength light during the central part of each day, which also leads to higher levels of alertness.
Recent developments in LED lighting technology allow LEDs to mimic the stimulus provided by natural light, promoting a healthy and regular circadian rhythm. When natural sunlight is insufficient, exposure to highly-tuned LED light at the targeted blue wavelengths for a limited duration during the day can be an effective substitute. Likewise, warm lighting has less blue light and thus does not suppress melatonin to the same level. Transitioning to warm lighting can help encourage a normal sleep pattern.
These correlations can be used by a lighting designer to install and tune LED lighting systems in commercial, industrial and residential environments. In a residential household, for example, LED lights can be configured to generate brighter lighting that emphasizes blue wavelengths during daylight hours, with transitions to warmer lighting in the evening.
2. LEDs help decrease headaches.
Migraine and headache symptoms can vary from person to person, but light sensitivity is a common issue. For those who suffer from headaches and migraines, problems such as flickering fluorescent bulbs and a lack of appropriate task lighting can cause devastating side effects.
Proper lighting design and LED technology can help create a better environment for people who are prone to headaches. LEDs paired with lighting controls can provide the ability to customize and set individual light levels in order to help improve comfort levels and confront light sensitivity. This can be beneficial for anyone but especially for those who suffer from headaches and migraines.
3. LEDs increase productivity and learning performance.
Unpleasant flickering and brightness from overhead fluorescent lights can be a common occurrence in the classroom setting. Prioritizing lighting in educational building design, including proper light sources, levels and color temperatures, supports wellness. In addition, modern LED technology produces less heat and can help regulate facility temperature and lower lighting fixture count while reducing the need for overhead lighting. When LEDs are applied in a learning environment, research suggests that learning performance is increased due to these reasons.
Organizations that implement LED lighting in office spaces and work areas have recognized increased productivity levels. Recent studies show immediate and powerful benefits for workers' productivity, health and company or building brand image. WELL building standards (focused on health and wellness of people), LEED standards, thermal conditions, lighting design and lighting quality influence workers' perception of their space as well as their cognitive function and overall performance.
4. LEDs decrease stress and anxiety.
Humans naturally thrive in sunlight, meaning we’re more likely to struggle with behavior and mood changes when lighting doesn’t mimic natural environments. This can lead to increased anxiety, stress and even Seasonal Affective Disorder, a potentially serious condition that requires treatment, like light therapy, to help regulate melatonin production and relieve symptoms. Though work, school and other commitments may prevent many people from consistently spending time outdoors during the day, LED lighting can offer help. Because of its ability to mimic the mood effects and circadian impact of natural light, LED lighting has been associated with decreased levels of stress and anxiety in indoor environments.
Due to advancements in color tuning and lighting control technology, it is now possible to imitate the complex nature of daylight indoors and improve users’ health and wellness.