Can Artificial Lighting Harm Productivity?

By Torrin Greathouse | August 08, 2017

Since we first invented the lightbulb, humans have been deeply reliant upon artificial light. Top100Badge.pngThis is largely due to the inexpensive and convenient nature of electric lights. Despite their reputation, however, artificial lights are not always the best choice for a given facility. In fact, recent studies have shown daylighting to have a competitive edge. 

One of the major disadvantages of artificial light is the fact that these lamps can actually harm productivity.

Heighten Stress

Over 25% of working americans say that they experience “extreme stress” on a daily basis. This can be extremely destructive to productivity, degrading occupant focus and mental acuity. Unlike harsh artificial lighting, natural light is a proven trigger for reducing stress. It reduces overall mental and physical stress, producing a more relaxed state, while also lowering resting heart rates. On the other hand, electrical lights can actually increase stress in comparison.

Harm Visual Health

Artificial lighting can also have a pronounced effect on human visual health. Between glare and intermittent flickering, these lamps can put excess stress on the eyes. This is because our eyes are designed to adjust to even the most minute changes in light, these rapid changes create repetitive eye strain and can eventually lead to stress induced migraines. No only that, but artificial light has been linked to the development of myopia, or shortsightedness, which has been on the rise since the 1970s. In some countries which have rigorous education systems that do not regularly expose children to natural light, such as China, up to 80% of the population is affected by myopia.

Disrupt Sleep Schedules

Overexposure to artificial light can have a profound effect on building occupants’ quality and length of sleep because it disrupts melatonin production. Melatonin is the neurotransmitter which regulates our day-night sleep cycle. According to studies, overexposure to high-blue spectrum light, like that produced by fluorescent bulbs and some LED lamps, decreases the body’s production of melatonin. This disruption to the circadian rhythm can contribute to the development of insomnia, as well as seasonal affective disorder, both of which reduce employee’s ability to do their work effectively.

Overall Effect

These elements, among others have the potential to damage a building’s productivity significantly. In fact many studies of natural and artificial lighting have a distinct productivity gap.Facilities that switch from artificial to natural light have recorded improvements to productivity of up to 6-16%.

If you’ like to learn more about how to minimize artificial lighting reliance in your building,download our free eBook A Comprehensive Guide to Sustainable Lighting.
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