Circadian Rhythm and Human Centric Lighting

As we spend up to 80% of our day under artificial lighting, it is easy to see the benefits that can be attained by a system of artificial lighting that mimics the natural change of daylight in nature.

Graphic of body clock and light relationship

Human centric lighting is a lighting approach that supports more than just vision. It includes the provision of lighting to support our natural circadian rhythm and also includes lighting in a way that promotes our general wellness by:

  • Improving cognitive performance
  • Providing restful moments where we can contemplate, connect with ourselves
  • Improving mood, set the scene for connecting with others socially or professionally
  • Helping us connect to nature around us
  • Increasing energy levels

Human centric lighting is more than just changing colours of white light. Intensity of light (Lux levels), glare, contrast, colour accuracy and light balance are also import issues. All need to be in balance to attain the benefits of human centric lighting.

The Future
Although there is a large body of positive research, as well as evidence from successful installations in the workplace and health care, human centric lighting is only slowly being adopted in the marketplace.

An important point to note is that the design emphasis should not only be on the change of white light colour but also on the equally important change in light intensity to suit circadian rhythm. The light intensities required at ‘active’ parts of the cycle are much higher than that required for visual tasks. This has the unwanted effects of increasing energy use as well as the opportunity for glare.

The way ahead needs to be led by smart design thinking. When we start thinking of lighting not only as a ceiling mounted system, we can start developing spaces where light surrounds us and is distributed to suit tasks. When we utilise smart lighting controls to harvest daylight and dim at the end of the working day, we can recoup energy used when lighting levels are high in the middle of the day.

We are the only species on the planet that makes a habit of living in ways that disturb our natural balance with the world around us. We now have the technology to provide lighting systems that promote wellness in our built environment. I see a world where daylight is seamlessly integrated into our interior environments and light conditions not only support visual tasks but also promote emotional and physical wellness. 

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