Lighting & happiness

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Lighting & happiness

We all know that light is needed to see the world, what photobiologists and chronobiologists discovered a few years ago is that light is also needed to enjoy the world. Our body produces hormones on a 24-hour cycle called the biorhythm. This biorhythm is a like a clock controlled by light exposure.

In the morning, as the natural light levels increase, the pineal gland is triggered and our body produces serotonin and dopamine – the hormones for alertness and joy. As the day winds down and light levels decrease, we produce melatonin – the hormone for sleep and healing. These hormones are produced like clockwork, and the sequences of this circadian clock are triggered by our exposure to different light levels.

Disruption of this cycle – either due to lack of light in the mornings, or exposure to bright light late in the day causes sluggishness and blues, and over time adds up to disease. Seasonal affect of circadian disruption shows up as SAD (seasonal effective disorder), which is merely a lack of sufficient light to trigger production of feel-good and feel-alert hormones. It is no surprise that SAD is prevalent in higher latitudes in winter months when natural daylight availability is at its lowest.

Both the amount and the color of light need to be appropriate for proper circadian function. Light, as we know by looking at the rainbow, consists of seven colors. Early in the day, we need bright, blue-rich light for optimal serotonin production. This could be daylight from the north sky. Towards the end of the day, we need yellow-rich light of dimmer intensity. Exposure to bright, bluish light before bed time interferes with the melatonin production, and deep sleep.

So, if you work on a computer late at night, go with a background theme in shades of yellow or red, and lower the screen brightness. And in the mornings, get outdoors and spend some time in daylight. Light, the effective happiness drug is available to everyone. And like best things in life, it’s free.

Light Up Your Life
By Maninder Dhaliwal. M.A.Sc., P. Eng.