Since the invention of the light bulb in 1879, electrical lighting has become an integral part of life in all developed nations. Our lives have shifted from being defined by the hours of sunlight, and we have begun to transition into a 24/7 society. The benefits of this, however, don’t come without costs.
Artificial lighting can have a markedly negative effect on human health and sleep.
Effects on Sleep
Harming Melatonin Production
Melatonin is the neurotransmitter which regulates our day-night sleep cycle. Multiple studies have shown that overexposure to high-blue spectrum light, such as that produced by fluorescent bulbs and some LED lamps, can hamper the body’s production of melatonin. This acts to destabilize people's’ circadian rhythms and is a contributing factor in the development of insomnia, as well as seasonal affective disorder.
A recent study by The Sleep Judge analyzed the ways in which technology can negatively affect sleep quality. Alongside blue spectrum light, one of the leading causes of poor sleep listed is background white noise. The nearly imperceptible buzzing of lighting ballasts can create difficulty sleeping. Additionally, the electromagnetic interference of wifi has been shown to interfere with sleep quality, which bodes poorly for recent innovations in IoT lighting.
Effects on Health
Weakening the Immune System
Lack of exposure to sunlight not only reduces the production of melatonin, but also vitamins C and D. These two vitamins are fundamental to maintaining the human immune system. On the other hand, exchanging artificial lighting for moderate exposure to natural light can aid in the prevention of many medical conditions including multiple sclerosis, hypertension, prediabetes, and some autoimmune diseases. For more comprehensive information on the way that natural light can bolster immunities, download our free eBook A Comprehensive Guide to Sustainable Lighting.
Promoting Weight Gain
According to experts at VJ Pillow, the poor sleep that low-quality light creates can also affect our metabiolism. One reason for this is that reduced sleep encourages the production of excess Ghrelin, a hormone that controlls appetite. This increase in hunger, alongside decreased energy from being awake longer, burning more calories, sends your body mixed signals. But in most cases, if you are sleep deprived and wanting food, it is sleep your body is really hungry for.
Elevating Stress Levels
Because the human body is intrinsically connected to nature, our stress levels are partially correlated to our exposure to natural stimuli. While exposure to natural light and the sounds of nature can reduce stress levels and resting heart rates, the lack of this stimuli can elevate stress over time. Ensuring that natural light is used in conjunction with a building’s artificial light can help ensure employees who are less stressed.
(Photo: Forte Chance Piemonte, CC.)
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