At a time when sustainable and healthy living is at the forefront of many of our minds, the issue of lighting becomes a contested one. While LED (light-emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent light) lights have gained popularity for their energy efficiency, these kinds of lights tend to leave people feeling… off.
Yes, it’s important to focus on reducing our carbon footprints (and our expenses), but it turns out these new technologies can negatively impact our health in very real ways. Some of the negative effects you may experience after being exposed to these lights that are commonly found in our offices and doctor’s waiting rooms include tired eyes, headaches, and insomnia.
People with light-colored eyes are more vulnerable to damage from lighting than those with hazel or brown eyes because they have less melanin in their irises. That said, no matter what your eye color is, the following lighting tips will help you feel (and look) better, and could even improve your overall health.
Avoid overhead lighting
Though often the primary illumination for workplaces and homes, overhead lighting has major drawbacks. These issues are amplified if the source of the light is not only above you but behind you. The resulting shadows on your workspace make it difficult to see and more tiring. On top of that, the angle of overhead lighting taxes the optic nerve, and after working for hours on end can really strain our vision.
If you don’t have control over the lights where you work, once you’re home, make sure to opt for side lighting. Opt for using lamps where you can, which help create ambient lighting. Lamp shades also diffuse and soften the light, making them less harsh on your eyes.
Office lighting often has a yellow or green tinge to it. Soft pink bulbs can counteract these effects. Pink lighting is especially good in closets. For one thing, it’s surprisingly flattering for trying clothes on. Search for pink bulbs online or at lighting stores.
Under cabinet lighting
Instead of flicking on your overhead kitchen lights, experiment with under-cabinet lighting while you are chopping your veggies or washing dishes. Ideally, seek to outfit your kitchen with 2700k bulbs which indicate warmer colors like yellows or oranges.
If under-cabinet lighting isn’t an option for you, you can get the same effect by setting up a small lamp on your countertop or a rope light that can be secured underneath your cabinets.
Incandescent vs. LED
An incandescent lightbulb is better for our eyes because it uses a steady stream of electrical current to heat a filament. LEDs on the other hand have a compressed current, emit less heat, and produce an artificial ultraviolet (UV) light.
The upside of LEDs is that they are more energy efficient and are less of a burden on our wallets. The downside is that the artificial UV light that is emitted by LEDs, computers, and TV screens negatively affects our eyes. Exposure to this kind of light is connected to lower sleep quality, which has a negative impact on our overall health.
To help mitigate these negative effects, you can use a screen protector in combination with blue-light glasses. Many devices also have a function that makes their screens shine a warmer, rosy color in the evening.
Way back in the day, our ancestors used fire to bring light to the darkness of night. The orange hue of a fire reduces stimulation to the brain and signals to our nervous system that it’s time to relax. Humans evolved to see red and orange light at night, not the artificial blue/green light that our screens emit.
This is why blue and green-toned light can cause us to toss and turn as we sleep. To mimic the natural tones of a fire, consider plugging in a salt lamp and putting your devices away before bed.
Natural light and your vitamins
When our bodies are exposed to natural sunlight, it engages in the process of creating vitamin D. Many of us don’t get enough exposure to sunlight, so when you can, take advantage of daylight by opening your windows and taking walks outdoors.
If you work in a space that is void of natural light, try to get outside during your break. It will boost your mood and your health!