How Lighting Affects Your Mood and Wellbeing

Apr 5, 2023 | Design

Until now it’s not been well known how lighting affects your mood and well-being. Dimmed lights can create a relaxed atmosphere while bright sunlight is supposed to brighten our mood.  Sometimes we can go for days, if not weeks in the UK without seeing any sunshine and so to combat this, we might invest in a natural daylight lamp; anything higher than 4000K will help combat any symptoms of SAD.

It might be that you want to go one further, and purchase a range of colour changing Philips Hue lamps so that you can bathe whole rooms in a colour of your choice.  With this kind of technology you can literally feel and see how lighting affects your your mood and wellbeing directly.

How Lighting Affects Your Mood

Red as a colour is usually associated with anger or love. And red light is usually associated with danger (Billy Ocean even sang a song about it). Think flashing red lights on fire alarms, red warning lights on your car dashboard and red lights on the tops of cranes and air turbines to warn planes etc. However, red light can also be used as an energy booster and red light therapy can be used to combat muscle and joint stiffness. At home, you might want a red-ish tint in your living room while you’re watching television in the evening. Red can also be a good light to have on in the bedroom just before you go to sleep. It can create a kind of womb-like feeling of coziness. It lets your eyes and therefore your brain, know that you’re winding down.

Blue is a tricky one – it can be relaxing and calming after a long day; think ocean waves crashing against the sand or a cloudless blue sky. But offices often use a blue light to increase productivity in their staff. A pale, white-ish blue’s main effect is to suppress melatonin, the brain chemical that can make us feel sleepy. If you need to pull an all-nighter, increase the light intensity and the quantity of bluish white light in the room. Almost done with your work? Change the setting on your Hue lamps to warm, low-intensity lighting, which will calm you down. You might also have experienced that when you work late on a computer or tablet it is difficult to sleep afterwards. The cause of this is the high blue content of the backlit screens. Blue light at night causes an out-of-phase circadian rhythm, and is a health hazard. There are some applications you can install that correlate the screen’s brightness and colour, to the daylight of your location. F.lux, for example, works on most systems, or the Twilight app reduces the amount of blue lighting on your Android phone.

The effects of green aren’t as well documented as the other colours but evidence showing that green is in fact the easiest colour on the eyes is based more in physical science than most. There are millions of tiny cones and rods in our eyes which are designed to pick up three different specialized colour categories: blue, green, and red. The blue cones primarily only pick up blue light, while the green and red tend to overlap a bit, picking up a large range of colours from red to green. When this overlap is taken into account, the majority of the cones that are found in the eye will detect green over red. That means that our eyes are hardwired to see green easier than any other colour, making it the colour that creates the least amount of eye strain.

Yellow and orange lights are great mood boosters. They remind us of the sun and of warmth, especially useful in the depths of winter. Migraine sufferers use yellow tints over computer screens and glasses to combat exposure to harsh, blue/white lights. There’s a reason why babies nurseries are often painted in pastel yellow shades – they’re extremely calming. Yellow light therapy is a proven treatment for depression. Orange light is often seen as a warning – amber traffic lights or orange cat’s eyes on the motorway, but orange is strongly associated with creativity.

How Lighting Affects Your Sleep

Lighting can greatly affect not just your mood but your sleep too. In recent years, studies have showed just how blue light being emitted from smartphones can literally keep you awake long into the night – even after just 15 minutes of looking at your phone before going to bed. It’s also why lighting design is so important when it comes to bedroom lighting, it literally imrpoves your health and wellbeing from improved sleep.

Light exposure is a strong way to regulate your circadian rhythm. Researchers have now discovered how blue light can affect the circadian rhythm – the clock that controls your sleep and wake cycles. The main part of the circadian rhythm is the release of melatonin, a hormone that tells your body when it’s time to sleep. Blue light has been known to block melatonin production. The blue light actually interferes with the body’s natural ability to get melatonin. This interferes with your body’s ability to get enough sleep at night. An overwhelming amount of research has revealed the negative effects of blue light on your sleep. It’s estimated that the blue light is emitted from many screens before you even get into bed. This means when you do get in bed, your body is already tired.

Whatever lighting you choose should be as dark as you need it to be to feel well-rested.  Avoid looking at your phone before bed or it will definitely disrupt your sleep.  For many people, however, the best strategy for avoiding blue light is simple. Simply limit your exposure to bright light but also put away any electronic devices. You can also investigate using blue light blocking glasses, eyeglasses, or a sheet to mask  the light.  For mornings you can also look into Wakeup lights, but proper lighting design will assist you in achieiving this outcome even easier.

Sleep is important, as it keeps your body in a state that is ready to function and this is why lighting design impacts your health directly and plays a huge part in your general day to day wellbeing.

Lighting has such a profound effect on all of us and it is a good idea to make it a habit to turn off all unnecessary lighting when going to bed and to keep to a proper sleep routine and schedule.  Talk to Lightmaster today about how our lighting design team can assist you in improving your health, mood and wellbeing just with lighting.

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