Imagine a bright, sunny summer day. You go outside and do your favorite activity. Maybe golfing, fishing, gardening, hiking, bicycling and so forth. You simply go outside and enjoy the weather. You are awake and active, but at night you sleep like a baby. Why does this happen? Congratulations, you actually established a healthy circadian rhythm.
Our bodies have been trained for thousands of years to wake when the sun rises and sleep when it gets dark. Cavemen then invented a torch that glowed amber in color, which illuminated their nights. In the past 10 years, brain scientists have linked the nanometers of this change in light so lighting products can simulate this healthy environment. Thus, the birth of circadian rhythm lighting. Companies then married the biologic benefits to the energy savings and long life provided by health benefit LED lighting to bring the appropriate outside environment indoors.
The top five benefits of LED circadian rhythm lighting:
1) It helps restore normal sleep patterns. This is accomplished because LED circadian lighting assists in the release of melatonin and dopamine in the evening hours to make a person relaxed and tired at night while suppressing these hormones during the day and assisting in the release of cortisol enabling a person to be more alert and active during the day.
Normal sleep is the best antioxidant you can benefit from. Do you ever wonder why your cold or flu gets better with more sleep? The National Institutes of Health has determined that this lighting can reduce hospital stays, a desired result for the patient/resident, government, insurance company and others.
2) It eliminates glare to help people see better, experience fewer headaches and enjoy better visual acuity. This is very important for older adults whose their eye lenses yellow and thicken as they age, requiring much more light to see. This cannot be accomplished with traditional lighting because of glare.
Mom used to knit and dad used to read the newspaper daily. They don’t anymore, and you may not understand why. They need 75% more brightness than a 25-year-old to see items the same.
With edge-lit LED panels, you further reduce the glare and shadowing that cause depth perception issues and increases visibility.
3) It improves mood, alertness and productivity. Seasonal affective disorder is a big problem for many. It can lead to lack of productivity and depression and is linked to suicide. By simulating the healthy outdoor environment, the person with SAD is awake and active in the morning, with cortisol released, also aiding with digestion, diabetes and other symptoms.
Studies show that employees exposed to the appropriate lighting suffer fewer sick days and improved production at work. Students tested under the appropriate lighting scored 13% better on standardized tests than other students on identical tests. By later warming the classroom lighting, a student then can relax as directed by the teacher.
4) It saves money and the environment. LED lighting reduces electricity consumption of lighting by up to 85% and lasts at least 50,000 hours, so you can now take your maintenance crew that replaces bulbs after 10,000 or less hours to another function in the facility.
LED does not contain any dangerous metals, lead or mercury commonly found in some older florescent and incandescent bulbs.
Good LED products have FCC certification, representing that they do not interfere with sensitive wireless or wired electronics typically found in medical facilities.
5) It’s the latest technology and uses fully automated control systems. You no longer need to manually adjust a facility’s lighting to provide the circadian rhythm benefits. Newer systems use wireless control systems that include an automated scheduler and a mesh network such as my favorite, Zigbee. These systems can be integrated with “smart” building systems that control other systems, such as HVAC.
A smart system further allows the user to manually override when needed and allows each fixture to have its own identity so the user can make each light, group of lights or entire facility provide the appropriate lighting at any desired time. By using radio frequency wall mount touch controllers, or handheld controls for manual adjustments, the need for dimming wires to a wall switch is removed, further reducing installation costs.
A.T. Kearney reported that circadian rhythm lighting will represent a $14.3 billion market by 2020 in Europe. In the United States, which often historically lags Europe in innovation, these systems are being tested now by many universities, hospitals, senior living facilities, schools, correctional institutes, sleep clinics and other sites. If you don’t have it now, you likely will have circadian rhythm lighting within the next few years.
Harry Zuker is the founder and CEO of WalaLight, which provides ambient circadian LED lighting systems for commercial applications. Zuker, who received his MBA from the University of Miami School of Business, has developed an extensive line of energy-efficient LED lights.