Light It Up: How Your Lighting Could Affect Your Mental Health

In recent years, the way people respond to light has been something of a hot topic. From the growing numbers of people dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to the rise of blue light glasses, we’re learning more and more about how lighting can affect our moods, life patterns and behaviours.

Often, people don’t realise the impact that lighting can have upon their sleep and wellbeing. The simplest of changes could help you enjoy a new lease of life. Here, the lighting and smart home system experts at Wandsworth Electrical take a look at how you can use lighting in your home to feel better, sleep deeper and unwind in style.

Key findings

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) usually occurs during winter, when days are darker and there’s less light. Light therapy, using a lightbox, can help combat this.
  • Blue light limits the amount of melatonin your body produces, making it more difficult for you to sleep at night.
  • Certain colours of light can affect your mood in different ways – yellow can relieve feelings of irritation and green can reduce feelings of pleasure.
  • Studies suggest that lighting can even affect your appetite, the speed at which you eat, and your overall decision-making.

Lighting and mental health

Your home’s lighting can be used to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sometimes known as winter depression, SAD predominantly occurs during the winter months, since the bad weather and short daylight hours are thought to negatively affect your mood.

According to the NHS website, some people who suffer from SAD find light therapy helpful. This involves sitting in front of a specialised light box for 30-60 minutes a day. The lightbox simulates the sunlight that’s missing during the winter months, encouraging your brain to produce serotonin.

Sweet dreams

If your body is exposed to bright light before bed, it can negatively affect your sleep. Your circadian rhythm (a.k.a. your body clock) responds primarily to lighting. Your body responds to light as a sign that it needs to be awake, and darkness as a signal to fall asleep. This doesn’t just mean the sun, however. Sitting in a brightly lit room just before going to bed will make it harder for you to go sleep.

The backlight on your phone screen and other devices can also prevent you from sleeping and is one of the main reasons most smartphones have a night mode. Blue light, which is present in white light, reduces your body’s ability to produce melatonin, thereby making it more difficult for you to get to sleep.

Colour Me Excited

The colour of your lighting can also have a huge impact on your mental health – and your mood. Studies show that certain lighting colours can affect your mood in different ways; yellow light can help relieve feelings of irritation, whilst green light can reduce feelings of pleasure and negatively impact your mood.

Warm colours like yellow and red can trick your brain, triggering some of the same responses as if you were actually sat in a warm room. Meanwhile, colder colours like blues and greens can have the opposite effect, and can make you feel colder. Warming light can make all the difference in winter!

Feeling hungry?

Research in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that lighting is not only important for visual performance and safety, but also plays a vital role in regulating human physiological functions.

In fact, lighting can have an effect on everything, from your appetite to the speed that you eat at Research shows that dining in bright interiors will make you eat faster, whilst dim lighting will make you eat slower. Even your perception of flavour can be altered by the lighting you choose in your home.

Clearly, lighting has a noticeable effect on people’s moods. But how can you implement these changes at home?

Dimmer switches

Installing dimmer switches in your home gives you more flexibility to tailor your lighting to your mood – it’s called mood lighting for a reason! Dimmer lighting allows your eyes to relax, and can help your entire body feel more comfortable. Some studies even suggest dimmer lighting calms our body down, improving our decision-making skills.

Daylight harvesting

Daylight harvesting, also known as constant light levels, can be used to help offset some of the effects of SAD. Daylight harvesting uses a Passive Infrared (PIR) sensor to detect the level of light you’ve set and maintain it constantly all day, adjusting in line with how much natural light comes into the room.

If you’re working from home, you can set your light levels to a specific brightness at the start of the day. The PIR sensor will then take over, dimming your light up or down depending on the time of day. Eventually, you’ll end up with 100% artificial light inside and darkness outside. This way, you can maintain the perfect light level, whilst cutting your energy costs.

Timing your lights

It’s easy to lose track of time, particularly if you’re having a busy day! If you’re working late or even just unwinding at home, you might forget to dim the lights to prep your body for bed. Try having your lighting on a timer to make sure you don’t strain your eyes – if you’ve got a smart home, you can set your lighting to change at certain times to ease you into the morning, or wind down at night.

Switch the big light off

If you’re looking to go for some softer lighting, investing in some smaller, more restrained lighting could be the way to go. Freestanding lights, table lamps or fairy lights are a great way to reduce brightness in your home. Plus, LED bulbs are much better for the planet than traditional filament bulbs, so you can cut down on your electricity bill, too.

Colour carefully

Customising the colour of your lighting is another great way to ensure that your body and mind benefit from your lighting choices. Whether you’re opting for a smart-controlled main light bulb or remote LEDs in your ambient lighting, you can tailor your light to your mood and the time of day, to ensure you’re not getting too much blue light and can properly relax.

Robert Aiken, Technical Director at Wandsworth Electrical, comments: “In many ways, your lighting choices are just as important as your interior design, and the two should go hand-in-hand to maximise the potential of your space. However, it’s not just aesthetics that make lighting a vital consideration – people should understand the consequences of being exposed to bright light or coloured light, and how these can affect their body.”

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