You’ve probably come across the phrase “circadian rhythm light bulbs” while shopping for lights or on a lighting advertisement page, and you’re still not sure what they mean or how they affect your life. Indeed, various sectors, ranging from healthcare to corporate, have begun to investigate the potential benefits of lighting that mimic the human body’s natural sleep/wake cycles.
These strategically designed systems, known as circadian lighting, may have the potential to improve people’s health, alertness, productivity, and more. To learn more about these, continue reading.
Circadian Lighting: what is it and how does it work?
Circadian lighting is a term that has gained traction in recent years; you may have also heard it referred to as ‘human-centric lighting,’ ‘tunable lighting,’ or mentioned in the context of biophilia. While these terms are more commonly used as buzzwords, circadian lighting is a real area of research, science, and innovation.
The term “circadian rhythm” refers to bodily functions that occur approximately every 24 hours. The term ‘circadian’ is derived from Latin, where ‘circa’ means ‘around’ and ‘dim’ means ‘day.’ While the term “circadian lighting” is relatively new, circadian rhythms have been observed in both plants and animals for centuries.
Circadian lighting is lighting that is intended to have a biological effect on the human circadian system. Circadian lighting sends signals to the brain’s master clock, telling our bodies when it’s day and when it’s night, and what functions to perform at different times of the day. A healthy circadian rhythm is linked to better long-term health and promotes better sleep at night, allowing our brains to repair both our bodies and our minds.
The goal of circadian lighting is to provide the brain with enough light signals to help reinforce the natural light/dark signals we would receive from the sun if we spent more time outside. “Brighter days and darker nights” are a simple mantra to help capture the goal of circadian lighting.
Circadian lighting should provide a strong daytime light signal, alerting our brain to the fact that it is daytime and instructing it to perform all of the functions it requires during the day. We want to reduce the daytime light signal at night to help our bodies wind down and tell our brain to perform nighttime functions.
We will look at the connection between light and circadian rhythms, debunk some myths about color tuning, and compare color tuning or tunable white to effective circadian rhythm lighting bulbs technology.
***Read more: How to set up LED Circadian light bulbs
Circadian rhythm light bulbs and color tuning
Color tuning or tunable lighting is not always associated with circadian lighting. Color tuning, also known as tunable white lighting, is a type of LED technology in which the hue of white light can be changed over time to appear warmer (more yellow) or cooler (bluer). Color tuning technology is frequently marketed as a means of simulating the color of daylight from sunrise to sunset.
Color tuning allows users to control the color (or hue) of their white light, ranging from warm white (more yellow) to neutral white (bluer), as well as the light intensity for each hue. These dynamic lighting systems provide an ambiance for the environment and may have other psychological benefits, but they do not address how our bodies respond to light biologically.
The reason color tuning fails to meet our biological needs is that almost all color tuning systems use white LEDs designed solely for vision. This means that, while color tuning allows users to change the intensity and hue of the light, the LEDs were not designed to target the circadian system. Traditional white LEDs, which were designed for vision and energy efficiency, do not provide the key sky-blue wavelengths of light required by our brains to effectively stimulate the circadian system.
True and effective circadian rhythm light bulbs include a specific part of the light spectrum (490 nm) that aids in the regulation of our circadian rhythms – this sky-blue signal is not found in standard LEDs. This critical part of the light spectrum sends the strongest circadian signal to our brains, which may help reduce chronic health conditions associated with our perpetual “indoor lifestyle” by improving sleep, mood, and overall sense of well-being.
***Read more: Top 8 Best LED Color Change Highly Recommended Choices in 2022
Circadian rhythms and light
We’ve talked about what circadian lighting is and how it differs from color tuning. Let’s take a closer look at how light affects our circadian rhythms.
Humans are creatures who seek the light. Sunlight has evolved to be the primary signal that helps regulate our brain’s master clock. This master clock regulates all biological functions in our bodies, from gene expression to daily hormone production.
The light must enter the eye to be transmitted to the master clock in the brain in order for our bodies to receive a meaningful circadian light signal. Every day, our bodies prioritize different biological functions at various times of the day — did you know that every cell in our body has its own clock?! That means that every cell in your body is dependent on the master clock to determine when it is active and when it should rest.
In an ideal world, we’d spend our days in the sun and our nights under the stars. When we receive good daytime light signals, our brain’s master clock is able to tell our bodies to perform a variety of functions, such as regulating body temperature, metabolism, blood pressure, and assisting us in feeling alert. Our bodies should also receive proper darkness or lower light signals in the evening, after sunset. This signals the master clock that the day has come to an end and that nighttime functions should begin, such as melatonin production, changes in body temperature, metabolism, cortisol levels, and so on.
For many people, artificial lighting in our workplaces, classrooms, or homes is their only source of light during the day. These lighting conditions may be adequate for seeing and performing tasks, but research has shown that they are woefully inadequate for providing the daytime circadian light signals our bodies require. Long-term exposure to this type of low-quality light can result in a low mood, lack of concentration, fatigue, and poor sleep.
Furthermore, rather than unwinding under the stars, we are very active at night and frequently spend evening hours under the same lighting conditions that we had during the day.
In an ironic twist, the artificial light that was once too dim for daytime circadian stimulation is now too bright to allow our bodies to relax. We are stuck in a perpetual state of circadian limbo, where our days are too dark to clearly signal the master-clock to begin daytime tasks and our nights are too bright to signal the master-clock to begin nighttime tasks.
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Light’s influence on circadian rhythms
The sun’s light/dark cycle has a significant impact on the circadian clock, sleep, and alertness. If you understand the effects of light, you can manipulate it to help you sleep better at night and be more alert during the day. Keep in mind that your circadian clock uses light and dark signals to predict what you will do in the future: when to prepare you for activity and when to prepare you for sleep.
The circadian clock is most sensitive to light from about 2 hours before normal bedtime and throughout the night, until about 1 hour after normal morning wake-up (this is the sensitive period). Light exposure during these times will influence when your body naturally becomes sleepy and is ready to fall asleep.
Bright evening light 2 hours before bedtime will cause you to become sleepy and fall asleep later in the evening, and you will wake up later in the morning.
– If you have trouble falling asleep, keep the lights turned down for at least two hours before you want to sleep. If the light in the area is difficult to control, you can wear dark sunglasses (wraparound ones work best). That should make it easier for you to fall asleep.
– If you find yourself falling asleep too early in the evening, go to a well-lit area to help you sleep. (However, if you are sleep deprived or suffering from an infection, go to bed early and catch up on sleep.)
Bright morning light shifts the time for sleep earlier, causing you to become sleepy and fall asleep earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning.
– If you are waking up too early and are unable to fall back asleep, keep the lights very dim until the time you want to wake up.
– If you can’t get up early enough, go to a well-lit area when you do (for example, eat your breakfast outside or next to a sunny window).
If you have to get up in the middle of the night, keep the light on as low as possible.
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The issue: A consistent indoor lifestyle
People are spending more time indoors than ever before; in fact, according to a 2001 study conducted by UC Berkeley and the EPA, we spend 87 percent of our time indoors. If we look back in time, we can see how humans evolved to fit in with their surroundings, waking up with the sun and going to bed shortly after sunset. Today, we no longer have this vital connection to the sun or daylight, and we spend the vast majority of our time under artificial lighting.
From a lighting standpoint, we know that our biology is heavily reliant on our relationship with the sun to repair our bodies and minds. In fact, daylight is the most powerful signal our bodies can receive in order to help regulate our circadian rhythms and send signals to our brain telling our bodies when to perform various functions.
We no longer receive this critical light signal because we spend the majority of our time indoors, and research shows that traditional indoor lighting does not provide the light signals our bodies require for healthy circadian rhythms.
Productivity and circadian lighting
Lighting to optimize circadian health is becoming increasingly popular, and many businesses want to know if happier, more energized employees result in higher productivity. Circadian lighting benefits go beyond wellness and offer a new way to increase employee retention rates and harness a more productive and motivated workforce.
Some studies suggest that circadian lighting can boost workplace productivity by increasing people’s energy and vitality – especially at the start and middle of the day. Researchers are continuing to investigate methods for bringing key aspects of daylight indoors and how this might improve memory recall and other tasks.
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Wellness and circadian rhythm light bulbs
Wellness is becoming a more prominent theme in design and an essential component of each of our daily routines. We know that small changes in our lifestyle can help us feel better, which has a significant impact on our overall sense of well-being. Circadian rhythm light bulbs are one way we can design better spaces to effect subtle but significant changes in our way of life. True circadian rhythm light bulbs provide our bodies with better daytime light signals, which can help improve sleep, mood, and overall well-being.
Circadian rhythm light bulbs send signals to our internal master clock, which regulates hormone production and tells our bodies what to do during the day and even at night while we sleep. Sending strong light signals to the master clock promotes better sleep, less fatigue, and increased concentration, all of which contribute to our level of motivation.
Spectrally optimized LEDs vs. Color tuned LEDs
Currently, lighting manufacturers promote two approaches to achieving ‘human-centric’ or circadian lighting – tunable white, AKA color tuning or dynamic white LED systems, or spectrally optimized LED solutions.
Controlling the intensity and color of white light, as well as adjusting both throughout the day, is what color tuning entails. Color tuning allows users to control the color (or hue) of their white light – from warm white (more yellow), neutral white, all the way to cool white (bluer), and users can also adjust the light intensity for each different hue. These dynamic lighting systems provide an ambiance for the environment and may have other psychological benefits, but they do not address how our bodies respond to light biologically.
***Read more: Top 7 Best Mood Lights For The Bedroom 2022 [Expert’s Choices]
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of circadian rhythm light bulbs?
circadian rhythm light bulbs constantly adjust the atmosphere of your home, allowing you to feel your best for life’s daily activities. You’ll feel more energized and inspired during the day when you’re exposed to cool-white lighting. Even when it’s overcast and storming, it will feel like a bright day in rooms or hallways that would otherwise be dark or poorly lit. Warm lighting at night will signal your brain to produce melatonin, allowing you to get a good night’s sleep.
Do circadian rhythm lights actually work?
The sun’s light/dark cycle has a significant impact on the circadian clock, sleep, and alertness. If you understand the effects of light, you can manipulate it to help you sleep better at night and be more alert during the day.
Is circadian lighting effective?
Yes! Melanopsin, a special photopigment in the eye, communicates directly with the brain’s master clock. Melanopsin is most sensitive to 490 nm, which translates to the visible spectrum’s “sky-blue” region, and transmits non-visual information to the master clock in our brains. Traditional white LEDs typically have a blue peak around 480 nm, making them ineffective at targeting melanopsin or providing a circadian signal to the brain. This means that any indoor space with traditional white light, whether tunable or not, does not provide the vital sky-blue signal our bodies require.
Are circadian rhythm light bulbs costly?
Despite the fact that fixtures designed to influence the circadian system cost more than standard white lights, implementing circadian lighting strategies does not have to be expensive.
Finally, we hope that this article has provided useful information as well as answers to frequently asked questions about circadian rhythm light bulbs. If you need assistance, please leave a comment and we will assist you. Thank you for reading!