What is the Healthiest Light Bulb?

While it may be common knowledge that a lack of natural light contributes to various health problems, the topic of health and light usually ends there. Plenty of information exists regarding natural light and the various disorders (like seasonal affective disorder) that arise from a lack of it, but what about discussing the type of indoor lighting we use? Wouldn't a lack of natural indoor lighting affect us too?

Of course it does! That's why we do what we do.

Indoor lighting - when done right - can in many ways improve your well-being (and, for some, your health).

But not all light is the same; here's precisely what to look out for if best health is in your interest. 

What does light do for us in general?

Stating the obvious, light allows us to see. But the extent of how well we see depends mainly on the type of light we use. Of course, natural light is always best, but what about when that's not available?

How we see = How we feel

Our ability to see our environment accurately correlates directly to our well-being. Think about it: how do you feel after spending time in a poorly-lit space? Probably not great. Indoor lighting profoundly affects us. That's why we love natural light pouring in through our windows; it evenly illuminates interiors with balanced, pure light that makes everything look better, and by extension, makes us feel better. 

Some common problems with conventional light sources

Let's identify some of the problems with the standard and conventional light sources available. 

The most glaring fact (pun intended) is - other than a degraded light quality, appearance, and inability to reproduce colors and textures accurately - most conventional light bulbs are LED.

The problem with conventional LED

LED kind of snuck up on us as the new, standardized lighting technology, yet it can pose various problems for sensitive (and non-sensitive) individuals. 

In an age of moving toward everything "smart", what started with phones has evolved into smart homes with smart TVs, thermostats, and light bulbs. Yet, the mantra for good health seems to be, unplug, rest, and reset. How can this be possible if we're constantly "plugged in" with all sorts of electronics, even in our lighting?

In terms of what we can see, most conventional LED gives off flat and obtrusive light.

Yet, ironically, many of the problems with this light are properties that we cannot see directly with our eyes, i.e., the many properties of light felt by the body. We may not see them, but many of us can feel them, especially after accumulated exposure due to prolonged daily use.

Those unseen problems are the peaks in harsh blue light frequencies, flicker, dry eyes, eye strain, headaches, and malaise that accompany prolonged use. 

Unfortunately, these properties are due to the electronic components of LED, so even "natural" LEDs can cause problems in sensitive individuals. 

A note on blue light 

In a modern era necessitating blue-light filtering glasses and the use of screen filters after sunset, we've grown used to the idea that blue light is dangerous.

But here's the thing.

Blue light is a fundamental and biologically necessary portion of the light spectrum, the specific type of light that innervates our circadian rhythm and the resulting cascade of biological processes that keeps our bodies running in good health. 

So, while "artificial" blue light from screens and other electronics isn't the greatest idea (especially at night), blue light is present naturally in sunlight during the morning and daytime hours. It's a necessary ingredient for a recipe of good health.

Blue light is necessary, just not at night: it's stimulating and prevents our bodies from winding down for a night of deep and restorative rest. 

What are the best light light bulbs for health?

Just like anything else concerning best health - think natural foods sans additives, preservatives, and other ingredients our biology doesn't understand or have use for - the best light bulb for your health is the analog type, the one that best mimics light from our natural source, the sun. 

The absolute healthiest light bulb is then, by definition, incandescent.

Just as the sun radiates heat, producing the visible light spectrum we can see, an incandescent light bulb does much the same thing. 

An electrical current heats the base of an incandescent light bulb, which produces heat and visible light when conducted through the filament housed inside.

When we say incandescent bulbs are the closest thing to sunlight, we weren't kidding; the act of incandescence makes them one and very much the same - and our body recognizes its light as such. 

Is a full spectrum bulb necessary for good health?

What about a full spectrum daylight bulb? 

Unless you're using full spectrum bulbs with a 5500-6500K color temperature in the morning and daytime to stimulate alertness, you don't necessarily need these types of bulbs throughout the day for optimal health. Also, be aware of the light technology: any light bulb in this higher, cooler color temperature range is most likely either LED or fluorescent. 

So, while we absolutely suggest using a light therapy box or full spectrum daylight fluorescents during morning and daytime to increase energy and keep circadian rhythms in sync, please be sure to note the quality. Look for bulbs with a high CRI from a reputable manufacturer. 

Additionally, apart from applications specifying the need for a true full spectrum bulb (such as growing plants or basking reptiles in UV), most of us would benefit as much from a pure light source (incandescent/halogen) with a balanced color spectrum and a high CRI over 96.

Recommendations

On its own, an incandescent light bulb produces the purest, most natural form of artificial lighting. We suggest using incandescent or halogen bulbs throughout the day + night if you're after a greater sense of well-being. Also - unlike most harshly flickering LED or fluorescent bulbs - incandescents (and color-correct halogens like Chromalux®) will also be the healthiest type of light for your eyes!

To be even more specific, we recommend using full spectrum halogen incandescents during the day for their whiter color temperature, and full spectrum incandescents at night for their warmer color temperatures. 

But, as we just pointed out, make sure it's high quality. 

All matters of health aside, how well we see our environment depends on the quality of a light bulb;   color rendering index (CRI) and visible light spectral distribution are among two metrics to look out for in your lighting. 

Chromalux® full spectrum incandescent bulbs have a CRI of 99 (that's one off from the sun's CRI of 100) along with a uniform spectral distribution curve and optimal color balance. Use these to support your well-being all day and all year, with no fear of blue light interrupting your sleep. 

Light is a natural gift from nature, and we'd like to keep it as such. Choose better lighting and start unwinding a bit!

 

You may also be interested in reading: 

Can You Use Full Spectrum Light Bulbs for SAD?