11 April 2017 | Helen Loomes
Evolution has accustomed us to sunlight and the natural day / night rhythm. Natural daylight changes in intensity, colour temperature and direction all according to the season and time of day.
Our biological circadian rhythm responds to this cycle. The secretion of our hormones, which determines whether we feel alert or sleepy or able to concentrate, and even our body temperature is directly influenced by certain wavelengths of light entering through our visual system. But these stimuli avoid the optic nerve and have a direct pathway to the pineal gland, keeping our internal time clock in tune with the natural passage of time.
With the advent of artificial lighting we have changed the conditions that our bodies rely upon to have a normal sleep/wake cycle. Many studies are showing us that we can improve concentration and the ability to learn by incorporating the correct lighting. Ideally, we would like a low intensity of light with a warm colour temperature to start the day, then increase the intensity and change to a cooler colour temperature, where the blue wavelength is especially important, to energise us. Then reverse the process in the evening to have a truly dark sleeping environment.
Many bodies are investing in this type of research. We can have a powerful emotional response to our environment and must not forget other aspects of lighting design when we look at this biological requirement.
Is what makes us think that something is beautiful biologically programmed into us? Maybe we react to a sunset because there is something within that sunset that we now know that we need to function better?
I think this will become the biggest lighting debate over the next five years. As the population grows and living spaces become smaller, the quality of those spaces will become far more important.
Helen Loomes is business development director at Trilux Lighting