Light Bulbs and your Health

All life on this planet is nourished by light from the sun, an essential "nutrient" for our health. Unfortunately- due to the nature of our modern world- most of us don't spend enough time outdoors and in natural sunlight. 

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 a discussion on the type of indoor lighting we use? Wouldn't a lack of "natural" indoor lighting affect us too?

That's why we do what we do, and we are here to tell you: yes, it does.

Indoor lighting - when done right - can in many ways improve your well-being (and for some, health). Not all light is the same; here's what precisely 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. 

Problems with conventional lighting

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

The most glaring fact 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 can pose an array of 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 yet obtrusive light.

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

Of those unseen problems are the peaks in harsh blue light frequencies, flicker, and dry eyes, eye-strain, headaches, and malaise that accompany prolonged use. Unfortunately, many of 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 an age of blue-light filtering glasses and screen filters after sunset, we've grown used to the idea that blue light is dangerous. We want to remind you that while 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; it's precisely these natural blue light wavelengths that notify our bodies of the time of day, stimulating our circadian rhythm and keeping our health in check. In other words, don't be afraid of blue light! It's the necessary stimulant form of light that keeps us healthy, and its benefit is seen when used as part of light therapy boxes that you use to keep feeling well during the winter. Blue light is necessary, just not at night, and it probably is not the best idea to get it from an LED source: it's stimulating and prevents our bodies from winding down for a night of deep and restorative rest. 

Better alternatives; light bulbs that mimic natural light

So what kind of light bulb best mimics sunlight?

Incandescent light bulbs. 

The sun radiates heat, which we then see as light.

An incandescent light bulb does the same thing: an electrical current heats the base of the bulb and is conducted through the filament housed inside, producing heat and light.

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 its light is recognized by our body as such. 

What about a full spectrum daylight bulb? 

You don't necessarily need a full spectrum bulb with a 5500-6500K color temperature to feel good. Light in this whiter, brighter color temperature range is great to use for extra energy and to feel alert, but in order to reach this higher color temperature range, they are most likely LED or fluorescent. These two types of light - if they aren't high quality - bring on the flicker and harsh peaks of blue light that we spoke about earlier. So while we absolutely suggest using a light therapy box, or using 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. 

Also, 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 really benefit as much from a pure light source (incandescent/halogen) with a balanced color spectrum and a high CRI over 96. 

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.  

But, as we just pointed out, make sure it's high quality. How well we see our environment depends on the quality of a light bulb: its color rendering index (CRI) and its visible light spectral distribution are among two metrics to look out for in your lighting. 

Chromalux® full spectrum incandescent bulbs have a CRI of 98 (that's 2 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 phenomenon and we'd like to keep it as such. Choose better lighting and start unwinding a bit!

 

Learn More

Learn more about full spectrum lighting

Does full spectrum lighting help SAD?