Architecture Interiors

Light, Camera & Action

Lighting for Health & Wellbeing

Sustainable Interior Design

Part 1

Lighting, what makes this element, whether it be natural or artificial light, so important when designing the spaces, we live and work in?  Natural light is necessary for promoting both our physical and mental wellbeing.  It further enables us to be able to carry out our everyday tasks and routines.  Whereas artificial light not only enables us to carry out daily activities, when there is limited or no natural light, but is also used for therapeutic purposes within healthcare.

What is Light? 

Natural light is light emitted from the sun or moon.  Artificial light is light, which is man-made, requiring electricity for it to illuminate.  There are varying types of artificial light, which will be discussed in second article in this two-part series on lighting for health and wellbeing. 

The colour of light is determined by its brightness, saturation and hue.  Brightness is identified as the amount of light emitted from a light.  Saturation refers to the intensity of a light  and hue is recognised as being the lights colour.  For instance, red, white, green or blue.  Light is viewed as either warm or cool.

Light is measured in Lux, which refers to the strength of a light.  Lux  as cited by Marriam Webster is:

‘A unit of illumination equal to the direct illumination on a surface

that is everywhere one meter from a uniform point source of one candle intensity or

equal to one lumen per square meter’.

The lux for direct natural sun light is between 32,000 – 100,000.  Whereas, for a standard light bulb it is reported to be between 250-500 lux.  It must be noted that the lux for natural daylight will vary depending on the time of the day and weather.  For instance, when the weather is overcast the lux is 1000 and when it is a full moon the lux is reported to be 1.  So, why is light so important for our physical and mental wellbeing?

Physiological effects of Lighting. 

Natural light plays an important role in the regulation of our circadian rhythm.  Circadian rhythm refers to, as cited by the Sleep Foundation, “coordinating our mental and physical systems’ within every 24-hour period.  This process is naturally occurring in response to day and night. 

Natural light is essential for the bodies nervous system, metabolic system and endocrine system.  It is important for the release of melatonin, a hormone found and secreted by the pineal gland. The pineal gland is part of the endocrine system and is located in the brain.  Melatonin assists with regulating the circadian rhythm.  

Sun light has been linked to having a positive effect on lowering a person’s blood pressure.  Good news for people who are prone to high blood pressure.  This is due to the ability of the sun  being able to manipulate the level of nitric oxide in the blood, resulting in lowering a person’s blood pressure.   

Natural light in the form of sunlight is important for vitamin D production.  Vitamin D is required by the body to help assist with the ‘absorption’ of calcium.  This is essential for our bones, teeth and heart.  Artificial light is used to help to treat conditions such as jaundice.  Jaundice is caused due to the increased amount of bilirubin in the body.  Bilirubin is a biproduct of the breakdown of our red blood cells in the body.   Natural light can help motivate people.

Little exposure to natural light can have a negative effect on our health and wellbeing.  Poor lighting, whether this be natural or artificial light, within the design of a space, can cause headaches and tiredness.

The Effects of  Light on our Mental Wellbeing

As discussed above, natural light helps in regulating the bodies hormones.  A reduction in these hormones can have a negative effect on our mental wellbeing.  For instance, it can cause irritability, poor memory, poor concentration, mood swings, anxiety and depression.  A lack of natural light within the workplace can result in a decrease in employee’s productivity.  Reduced amounts of natural light  can cause people to have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  SAD is recognised as a form of depression bought on by the change in seasons from autumn and winter.  

Poor lighting can affect a person’s mental wellbeing by increasing their stress levels. For instance, bright light can heighten a person’s emotions.  Whereas, lowered lighting can decrease stress levels, promotingcalmness and a sense of wellbeing.  It must be noted that the intensity of a light required to light an area will vary depending on what the space is to be used for.

Being immersed in natural light improves how we sleep at night and increases our levels of happiness.  This is due to effect sun light has on our brain in the creation and production of serotonin (a chemical found within the body that helps maintain a level of mental wellbeing).  Sun light further helps the body to create endorphins, which makes us feel happy.

The Effects of Coloured lighting

The colour of a light can have an effect on our mental wellbeing.  For instance,   red light is thought to promote a sense of warmth or insecurity.  Green light, linked to nature can create a sense serenity and strength.  Finally, blue lighting can create a sense of serenity.  When selecting a coloured light, consider the effects it could have on you both mentally and physically.  

Conclusion

Light plays an important part of in all aspects of lives, from the design of an interior and exterior space too our mental and physiological wellbeing.  It helps to regulate our body circadian rhythm and can reduce a person’s  blood pressure.   Artificial light, not only can it assist us in carrying out our daily activities, when natural light is not in abundance, but is used for therapeutic purposes within medicine.  Natural light can help to reduce levels of anxiety and depression, whilst also improving people’s sleep.  Different coloured lighting can also have a positive effect on our mental and physical wellbeing. 

Light, an everyday commodity, 

important for both our physical and mental wellbeing.

Thank you for Reading

Keep Posted for Part 2.

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