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Human-centric lighting and biology | OSRAM SYLVANIA 
The Biology of #LightHealth
How changes in lighting affects how we see and feel
May 21, 2015
Author: Jes Munk Hansen
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​Have you ever taken a red-eye flight and experienced the fatigue of jet lag the next morning? Or found it difficult to adjust to the schedule of a night shift? That’s because our bodies crave a natural circadian rhythm, a biological clock developed after centuries of living and working according to the cycle of a 24-hour day.

The human body has evolved to function according to a consistent, natural light schedule: a warm color–temperature morning sunrise, a cool blue midday sky, warm color–temperature sunset in the evening, and darkness at night. This is because our eyes contain light-sensitive cells responsible for circadian functions such as our sleep-wake cycle, performance, and alertness. These cells rely on both color temperature and position of light to be most active. Light mainly in the blue portion of the visible spectrum promotes the most activity, while light entering the eyeball from above has more effect.

Of course, our bodies learn to adapt to changes to our circadian rhythm, such as transitioning from dull, grey skies in winter to bright natural daylight in spring.

Fortunately, today’s optimized lighting solutions take both experience and evolution into account, using tunable LEDs to support our health through human-centric lighting.

Smart lighting = healthier lighting

Our knowledge of the human body coupled with advanced lighting technology allows us to create optimally lit environments that help how we feel and live. With the correct light output and distribution, we can teach digital lighting systems how to think like us so they can adapt to our behavior in a room, including adjustments from warm to cooler blue color–temperatures as the day progresses.

In fact, a study from the Lighting Research Center has shown that increasing circadian light exposure has a direct impact on our sleep and our mood. “Lighting design for office buildings has focused largely on providing sufficient light for visual performance, minimal glare, good color rendering and energy conservation,” the report says. But to help provide employees with higher quality sleep and mood experienced in winter as in summer, “strategies to increase circadian light exposures in buildings should be a consideration in architectural design.” To say it in simple words: “We need more light during daytime inside our buildings”

Humanizing light in healthcare

But our light health extends beyond the home and office, and should be a critical consideration in the healthcare industry. Advances in wearable technology not only allow us to measure vital signs—heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, temperature—but can work in tandem with dynamic lighting systems to provide a better patient experience for better outcomes.

These ideas inspire us all to think beyond energy efficiency; however, to make this happen, we need to develop standards addressing compatibility challenges. The increased complexity of compatibility requires us to think beyond a bulb-to-switch mentality and towards an approach that considers the entire lighting ecosystem. Holistically recognizing the entire ecosystem of today’s lighting systems is key to shaping the future of the industry. Working together with more open collaboration will inspire innovation and provide our industry with an economy of abundance for years to come.

We all have a role to play

For disruptive progress to made, we also have to realize that lighting isn’t just on/off anymore. Light is intuitive, adaptive, and connected. Only by fundamentally changing the way we think about light can we begin to shape how these technologies will impact our lives and our future. Just imagine the possibilities of what we can achieve together. Each of us plays a part in making the possibilities of our future a reality, and we should all look at opportunities to lay the foundation as we bring the marketplace of tomorrow beyond energy efficiency.

Tell us, what ideas do you have to improve the #lighthealth of the environments you work and live in? Share with us on Twitter @SYLVANIA.

And to learn more, check out Jes Munk Hansen’s original article, “Human-Centric Lighting Moves beyond Energy Efficiency,” in the February 2015 issue of NEMA Electroindustry.