May 13 2019
Light pollution stops city dwellers from seeing the full star spangled glory of the night sky. We may think this is a fair trade of for being able to read books in bed and not fall down manhole covers when walking down the street at night. Fair as it might be, it is only one element of the complex relationship we have with light.
There is a whole set of lights, some of which are beneficial and some of which are not. We know about the harmful and possibly carcinogenic effects of direct sunlight on our skin, but that doesn't mean all other light is good for us.
Our bodies are similar to the way our species began. Something we call circadian rhythms binds us, and it's a biological process that we go through in about 24 hours. This time is called the day, or more accurately, the solar day. It's a natural cycle that, if we object, can affect our energy levels, our mood and overall health.
Blue light is one of the most important aspects of our circadian rhythm. We need this blue light to get through our days. This means working in an office and providing the right amount of light at the right time.
If we turn on the shadow in summer, the sun's flow through it will often wake us up. This is not because of brightness, but because the sun's rays pass through our skin and set the alarm of our biological clock. At work, if we're in a dark space, we don't get this radiant goodness that allows us to experience this in the evening and early afternoon.
Controlling this amount of blue light is imperative, and leds have proven to be very good. And control is a big factor here. Blue lights can also disrupt our sleep patterns if we get too much blue light at the wrong time. It reduces the production of melatonin, a hormone from the pineal gland that helps us fall asleep. That's why you've probably heard people tell you to turn off your tablet and phone before bed.
Leds can be programmed to emit different amounts of light at different times of day. At home, we have home automation centers that can set the lights at different intensitudes at different times. Office or industrial space can do the same, except for more planning. This improves productivity when needed and shuts you down when things are quiet. Boeing has even introduced these controllable leds to its 787 dreamliner to help passengers get the most out of flying.
Helping with sleep and daily rhythms can affect mood, but leds can help us be more fundamental. By allowing us to use the right light to release serotonin, a hormone that affects happiness and well-being, we can help with the symptoms of SAD, a seasonally affected disease. The control of light helps keep us in balance on dark days, increasing productivity by improving our health and motivation to continue our lives.
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