Ever experience jet lag and wish you could avoid it? Ever pull a night shift, working late on a deadline and wish you could find alternate ways to get bursts of energy without having to ingest loads of caffeine? Well, the answer could be found in the artificial light that surrounds you.
In an extension of the last blog post discussing our body’s circadian rhythm, we learned why lighting is so important and with the WELL Building Standard gaining popularity, it is easy to see why circadian lighting design is at the forefront of conversation among design professionals. Turns out, regulating the type of artificial lighting we are exposed to is just as, if not more important, than the amount of artificial light we are exposed to. The times at which we are exposed to this light also makes major impacts on our body’s natural occurances. In the healthcare profession, lighting plays an integral role in the design of a project. Lighting must be turned off at night for the benefit of the patients, however, the staff are the ones left in the dark. While photopic lux is measured for visual lighting design, melanopic lux, which looks at light’s impact on the release of melatonin, is what needs to be measured for proper biological and circadian lighting design. Artifical light sources have different peaks of wavelengths of light; some with stronger blue wavelengths that disrupt our body’s natural rhythms. In designing for biological WELLness, these measurements of lux need to be taken into consideration. According to PhotoStar’s Fenella Frost, “We must understand how different levels of light affect us. Current research is showing that you can phase shift somebody with 100lx normal white light, moving [the body clock] by up to two hours a day. With normal lighting, we can entrain somebody’s circadian rhythm.” Lighting is really that powerful–pun intended.
For the nurses working that night shift, they will often come to a brighter area for 10 minutes every hour to get a sufficient amount of light to keep them alert. It does work. And the next time you’re traveling by plane, wearing sunglasses to protect your body’s system from the glow of artifical airplane lighting might just be the key to reducing or even avoiding the jet lag. For the design of a project however, the role of a lighting designer is critical in calculating the proper levels of lux for both visual and biological responses. Check out page 99 on the latest WELL Building Standard Reference Guide for a quick review on the latest requirements for Melanopic Lighting Intensity.