Ambient Light: Effects on Sleep and Mood

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Picture this – you have been staring at your phone for half an hour. You feel exhausted and stiff. Or, you spend a few hours sitting around a bonfire and are totally at ease. In both cases, you are exposed to light sources. The bonfire is a larger, brighter light source, and yet it has a more relaxing effect on the mood. What could this tell us about how we react to different light sources, and how do we use this to make our home a cozier and more conducive to good health?
The invention of artificial light is relatively recent in human history. We evolved to wind down with sunsets and the overwhelming amounts of light that we receive during nighttime throws of the production of a hormone called melatonin, which is responsible for making us feel sleepy. Blue light causes the brain to stay more alert and focused, which is great during the day, but if a person is exposed to blue light during the night, their brain is being told to stay up and alert even when they really should be falling asleep. Researchers found that blue and violet light suppressed melatonin production, while red light boosted melatonin levels and better quality sleep afterward. Therefore, many phones now come with apps to cut the blue light during the after-hours. Romantic restaurants have been using this wisdom for decades, helping us relax on a date in warm, suffused lights. Casinos have no natural light and no clocks, so that people lose track of time and the money they have lost.
Color theory has always played a significant role in architecture and interior design. Hospital rooms are often muted green, which has a stress-reducing effect. Similarly, the light of different colors can also set the tone of how we feel. Bright fluorescent lights often look unflattering and can look a bit clinical. However, bright white light does help us see better and keep focused. With the advent of intelligent lights and easy adjustment of color temperature on most lights, designers suggest using bright white light during the day when you most want to work, slowly fading to dimmer, warmer light as you unwind in the evening. Of course, suppose your building allows bright sunlight in. In that case, that is the absolute best as it keeps the mind alert and helps the synthesis of vitamin D. Many offices are inviting more natural light into their spaces, leaving behind the harsh artificial light-saturated cubicles. LEDs are now available in a plethora of colors and at affordable prices so that traditional spaces not connected to a phone can also benefit from color theory.
The best way to know what looks good in your house is to try out a few colors at a few different angles. Try a mix of pendant lamps and floor lamps in various colors, and you will see that the room that is your office during the day transforms into a cozy den at night.

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