Winter has arrived, bringing with it the shortest days of the year when we are most dependent on artificial lighting. For some, this can be a challenging time of year, especially for time-poor people who do not have much chance to get outdoors during the working week.
Natural light is associated with better mental health because it can stimulate the release of serotonin, which is a chemical that helps us to feel happier and calmer. It can also boost our energy levels by helping the body to generate vitamin D, which is essential for a healthy immune system and also strong hair, bones, and teeth.
However, during the cold and darker times of the year, most of us do not get exposure to natural sunlight to maintain optimal levels of vitamin D, which is why the UK government advises all adults to take a supplement during the autumn and winter.
Some people suffer from a mental health condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression caused by changes in the season, most frequently from summer to autumn and winter, which is why it’s sometimes called ‘the winter blues.’ It can lead to low mood, overeating, sleep disturbances, stress, and aches and pains.
How can we use interior lighting to lift our spirits?
The first step is to ensure that you allow the maximum amount of daylight into your home when it is available. This can be done by fully opening blinds and curtains; positioning desks and chairs close to windows; and making use of mirrors and light colour palettes to reflect more daylight.
LED daylight bulbs
On gloomy days when even the natural daylight is poor, consider using LED daylight bulbs to help replicate sunlight. These are low-energy bulbs that can change a dingy and dimly-lit room to a bright and uplifting space. They have a higher colour temperature than regular bulbs, making them more brilliant and ideal for ambient lighting and task lighting.
Adjust lighting levels to reflect your circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm is the body’s natural internal clock that is aligned with the cycle of day and night. It regulates sleep, appetite, mood, and energy levels. The internal clock is most powerfully influenced by light, and is crucial to maintaining a stable sleep-wake cycle.
During the winter, it is easy for the circadian rhythm to be disrupted with the wrong levels of artificial light. Therefore installing dimmable lighting that can be controlled either manually or through technology can help us achieve the right balance of light exposure.
Some systems are designed to change the colour temperature to match the time of day, with cool bright tones towards midday, gradually winding down to softer warm lighting in the evening. Warm tones help the body to produce more melatonin, which is the hormone that helps to feel drowsy and prepare for sleep.
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