Light affects us in many more ways than we realise. The type of lighting we are exposed to has an impact on our productivity, concentration and decision-making abilities. Exposure to light governs our sleep cycles, and over-exposure to light can cause permanent damage to our eyes. Lighting even has a significant effect on our mood.
Lighting experts advise shops, restaurants, hotels, sports centres, museums, theatres and a whole host of other businesses about how to generate the optimum atmosphere with light. Lighting can create an exciting atmosphere, or a relaxed one. It can create a sense of space, or intimacy.
Lighting actually affects how we feel. And if businesses are using lighting to put us in the right mood to enjoy their offerings (think upmarket restaurant), or to shop quickly (think bright lights in cheap supermarket), why can’t we use lighting to create the right mood in our homes?
Read on for more interesting facts about lighting and how to use light in the home to make sure you’re in exactly the right mood for making the most of that particular space.
How sunlight affects sleep
Sleep and wake cycles are dominated by the cycles of night (darkness) and daylight. The relationships between light, darkness and sleep are known as circadian rhythms, and they help to maintain cycles of sleep and wakefulness.
There is a complex relationship between sunlight, melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is a hormone that controls sleep, while serotonin is an important chemical neurotransmitter that is tied to states of wakefulness and happy moods. When the sun goes down, the body produces more melatonin, the sleep hormone, while serotonin levels increase with exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin D is also involved. We get vitamin D when the sun’s ultraviolet rays hit our skin, and high levels of vitamin D increase serotonin levels. Light literally has a physiological impact on our mood.
How light affects mood
Natural daylight has a calming effect on our moods and emotions, whist lack of light or poor artificial lighting has a detrimental effect on us, and can even trigger depression. The neurotransmitter serotonin plummets on dark days, causing a change in our level of happiness.
Light in the home can also have an impact on mood. Exposure to cooler blue lighting in the morning triggers the sympathetic nervous system and brings about wakefulness, helping us to feel more alert. Warmer light has more of an impact on the parasympathetic nervous system and relaxes us, so is more useful in the evenings when we need to wind down.
The art of home lighting
Lighting in the home also has the potential to boost mood and increase confidence. Here’s a quick round-up of the different home lighting styles and how they can be used to bring harmony to your home and your daily living.
Bright lights – task lighting
Artificial bright lights are commonly found in office buildings and schools. This is because these are the places where our brains need to be most stimulated. The most common type of lighting for this purpose is fluorescent lighting, because it is super bright, energy efficient and the costs are relatively low.
We often use bright lights in our homes in the kitchen, or in the home office in the form of desk lights. Bright fluorescent strip lighting is common in our garages. Essentially bright lights help us to see better and concentrate more when we are working, whether it be cooking, tinkering with car parts in the garage, studying, or dealing with paperwork.
However, excessive bright lighting in the home can make us feel nervous and on edge. Lighting without shades where light bulbs are exposed can irritate the eyes and create disharmony.
Soft lights – relaxing lighting
Bright lights are stimulating, and they cast shadows, and can create a sense of anxiety, whereas soft lighting creates an intimate and relaxing atmosphere.
For the spaces in your home where you want to relax, such as the lounge and the bedroom, soft lighting choices will help to create a peaceful ambience.
Dim lighting can cause eye strain when used in places where task lighting is more appropriate. Be sure to light the task-rich areas of your home with the right kind of lighting.
Poor natural lighting can trigger depression, and have a negative effect on the immune system. In fact, light therapy is being used to treat some cases of depression.
Try to maximise natural lighting during daylight hours through windows and skylights. You may want to review your window treatments to allow for this. While black-out blinds are a great idea for children’s rooms to assist with sleep, make sure they get opened up to let light in to the home during the day.
Paying attention to the lighting in your home could put you in a better mood.