Smart lighting is one of the most fun ways to experiment with automating your home.
Smart lights are easy to set up, program, and integrate into existing smart home systems. While some users find their initial cost prohibitive, smart light bulbs offer significant savings in energy bills long-term. Honestly, it’s also just fun to change the colors of your light bulbs on a whim or to turn off all the lights in your house while snuggled in bed!
Smart lighting isn’t just fun — it turns out that smart lighting systems can also be good for your health. Several scientific studies have indicated many influences of lighting on our mental and physical health. Thankfully, smart lighting can help you achieve all of these benefits in just a few simple steps.
1. Smart Lighting for a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is very important for your health. Harvard researchers found that restful sleep can help your memory, concentration, and ability to learn. Conversely, not getting enough sleep may cause greater risk of chronic disease, memory problems, and concentration difficulties.
If you want to sleep better, researchers recommend limiting the amount of blue light you are exposed to for up to two hours before bed. Blue light interferes with the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
Normally, the body starts producing melatonin when the light outside dims. However, blue light from interior lights or your electronic devices prevents your body from interpreting these natural cues correctly.
Smart Lighting Solution — This doesn’t just mean using an app to cancel out the blue glow of your cell phone, tablet, or computer (although apps like Flux can help). Science20 suggests that you consider programming your smart lighting system to automatically switch to an orange or red tone throughout your house after sundown. This will allow your body to produce melatonin naturally, increasing your chances of having a good night’s rest.
2. Smart Lighting for Waking Up
If you struggle through your morning routine, you may negatively affect your health, mood, and productivity.
Waking up to daylight helps your body to produce cortisol. Like melatonin, cortisol is a key hormone for helping to regulate your sleep cycle. Unlike melatonin, cortisol is responsible for waking you up and keeping you alert throughout the day. Keeping these two hormones in balance is the key to benefiting from a healthy sleep schedule.
Smart Lighting Solution — If waking up with the sun isn’t ideal for you because you work night shifts, have a room without large windows, or just want a couple more hours of sleep, consider a daylight simulator instead. A 2010 study from the Netherlands suggests that daylight simulators decrease the effects of sleep inertia (feeling groggy for several hours after waking up).
Some products like the Ario (currently under production via Kickstarter) offer this feature automatically. That being said, you can program similar features into most smart lighting systems!
3. Smart Lighting and Safety
Fall risk is an issue that we connect primarily to older adults. However, increased fall risk can affect people of any age — especially at night. Darkness and grogginess increase your chances of bumping into furniture, tripping over a rug, or taking a tumble.
In a best case scenario, you’re left with an annoying bruise. In a worst case scenario, a fall down the stairs could cause serious health problems.
Smart Lighting Solution — Smart lighting can help save you and your family members from these accidents. If every member of your family has access to the controls for certain lights around the house, you can easily turn on dim red lights.
These lights can then give you a safe path for your midnight trips to the bathroom (or the fridge, I’m not judging) without any stimulating bright blue light.
4. Smart Lighting and Emotions
Would you believe that lighting actually has a significant impact on our emotions? Media coverage provided a lot of information on using specialized blue lights to counteract Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). However, the lighting around us can also have more subtle influences on our emotional well-being.
Research in the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests that the intensity of the light in a room can influence the intensity of people’s emotions while in that space.
These trends were present for both positive and negative emotions and reactions to a number of tests, such as judging attractiveness, spiciness, or feelings towards positive/negative words.
Smart Lighting Solution — Bright lights have their place, but having a dimming option available for your smart lights is also a good idea. Dimming the lights may help to balance difficult or emotional conversations, decision making, and perceptions.
5. Smart Lighting and Eye Health
One of the most obvious impacts of lighting on health is the strain that it can put on our eyes. This is especially true in office environments, as bright overhead lights can prevent you from focusing well on documents or a computer screen. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, improper lighting can cause eye strain, headaches, blurry vision, or dry eyes.
Most office (or home office) jobs now require a variety of visual tasks. You may work with documents, computer screens, and other people all in the same tiny space. All of these tasks have very different lighting needs that can’t be met by a single lighting fixture.
Smart Lighting Solution — One of the best ways to decrease eye strain using lighting is to have several different smart lighting fixtures in your work space. Being able to control multiple lights allows you to target your lighting needs to the task at hand.
For example, experts recommend that when working with documents you should use a desk lamp for task lighting with the overhead lights dimmed. However, when having a meeting with a co-worker, you would likely want your desk light dimmed and your overhead lights using a brighter, cheerful setting. There are also several research-based recommendations for preventing computer-related eye strain.
Being able to change all of these settings while seated at your desk guarantees that the settings that are best for your eyes will win out. You don’t have to physically stand up to turn lights on or off, or to move them around your room — your automated system can do that for you instead.
What’s Next for Smart Lighting
What’s really exciting about smart lighting is that it is truly just in its infancy. There is more research than ever exploring how light affects our bodies, moods, and psychological well-being than ever before.
Now, all we have to do is wait for technology to catch up.
One cool example of this is a finding by French researchers in 2012. In their study, the researchers installed blue lights in car interiors for night driving. They found that drivers who were exposed to the blue lights were as alert while driving as drivers who had drank two cups of caffeine before hitting the road!
Other potential applications for smart lighting systems includes more widespread use by large businesses and industries. For example, hospitals may find that using smart lighting helps to improve patient health by ensuring they maintain good sleep schedules while admitted.
University lecture halls may finally be able to strike the perfect balance between glaring fluorescent lights in exam rooms and dozy students in dark lecture theatres.
Large corporations may even improve employee satisfaction by giving workers individual control over the lighting in their work area… hey, a girl can dream, right?
How do you use smart lighting in your everyday life? Have you noticed any changes in your health or sleep quality? Let me know in the comments!