How interior lighting design impacts your health - accent lamp on wood storage with art and decor

Take a moment to pause… and imagine going through your day. You wake up to the soft glow of dawn, gently nudging you to start your day with its warm embrace. As the day unfolds, the sunlight fills your home, energizing you with its bright radiance. As evening approaches, the sun sets and the light gradually dims, signaling to your body that it’s time to unwind and prepare for rest. This natural rhythm of light not only shapes our daily routines but also plays a crucial role in regulating our internal body clocks, known as circadian rhythms. And similarly, your interior lighting design impacts your health.

Natural light in living room with side accent lamp - impact of light design on health

About the role of interior lighting design

When the time comes to choose light fixtures, it’s usually fun time! I mean, who doesn’t like to embellish their home with beautiful chandeliers and accent lighting? I certainly do. But, light is one of the crucial elements in your home design. It not only serves functionality and aesthetics, but it plays a huge role in your wellbeing.

Let’s take a step back and go over the role that light plays in home design. Good lighting in a home can make or break a space. This aspect of design needs strategic thinking and planning. From how and what time of day a space will be used, to its style and layout, lighting has to integrate all these elements.

Why does interior lighting design impact your health?

In today’s modern world, where artificial lighting dominates our indoor environments, understanding the impact of light on our circadian rhythms is more important than ever. From the color temperature of light to its intensity and timing, every aspect of lighting design can impact our health. It influences our sleep-wake cycles, mood, emotions, and overall wellbeing. In this blog post, I’ll delve into the science behind circadian rhythms. I’ll also explore how lighting affects them, and discuss how to optimize home design aesthetically, functionally and for better sleep and productivity.

The role of lighting on Circadian Rhythms

Our bodies operate on a 24-hour internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm. This regulates various physiological processes, including sleep-wake cycles, hormone production, and metabolism. This internal clock is primarily influenced by external cues, such as light and darkness. It helps synchronize our biological rhythms with the natural day-night cycle. One way you may have noticed this is the difference in our ability to wake up faster during summer months versus winter, or when it’s still dark outside versus not.

How interior lighting design impacts your health

There are many components to light that impact our health. For instance, exposure to natural light helps us maintain our circadian rhythm, and therefore a healthier mind and body. To start with, making the most of natural light throughout the home is a key component in design. Natural light is an element of biophilic design. It has huge benefits on sleep, stress, energy, improved cognition, circadian rhythm and much more.

Focusing on your health by using natural light in your Interior Lighting design

Therefore, before getting to lighting design, start by your exterior when designing your spaces. Observe where the light comes in from the most, at what time of the day. Also, note what you see from your windows and doors in order to properly take advantage of sunlight. Here are a few tips to consider.

If you’re building or remodelling:

  • Put in large windows & skylights if you can
  • Consider your climate – how much sunlight do you get throughout the seasons
  • Add interior windows to bring in light to darker spaces
  • If you need to partition an open space, think of see-through materials

If you’re just redesigning or decorating:

  • Don’t block natural light with furniture or thick window treatments that you can’t open up wide enough
  • Position your furniture in such a way that you can have a view outside (provided it’s something you’d wanna look at)
  • Use reflective surfaces in transition spaces to borrow light from an adjacent room
  • Use mirrors where possible to reflect light in

Impact of Light

interior lighting design impacts your health-small kitchen lamp with diffuser

However, the impact of indoor lighting design is huge on your health. In absence of, or in addition to natural lighting, designing indoor lights carefully will help respect our circadian rhythm and avoid the disruption of the sleep-wake cycles. This is a feature commonly overlooked in the design process as the focus is put mostly on aesthetics and function. But, what about the temperature and exposure to indoor lighting?

Illuminance

Light illuminance is measured in Lux, which means the amount of light that falls on a given surface. Lumens define how bright a light source is, while lux determines how brightly an area will be lit by that source of light. Therefore, lux is used to measure the amount of light in a space that is required to conduct a given activity. It is measured with a light meter. Many factors should be considered in determining this measure such as natural light, space colors, decor, reflective surfaces, space dimensions and so on. However, there are some general guidelines per type of space that are usually recommended. Here’s a little example:

  • Hallways: around 100 lx
  • Kitchens: between 250-300 lx
  • Offices: between 300-500 lx
  • Living Rooms: around 100-150 lx
  • Bedrooms: 60-100 lx
  • Bathrooms: 150-300 lx
Light temperature

The color temperature of light, measured in Kelvin (K), plays a significant role in regulating circadian rhythms. Natural sunlight contains a balanced spectrum of colors. In the morning, temperatures are cooler (around 5000-6500K) and warmer in the evening (around 2500-3000K). Exposure to cooler temperatures of light in the morning helps suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. It also promotes alertness and wakefulness. In contrast, warmer temperatures of light in the evening signal the body to start winding down and prepare for sleep by promoting melatonin production. And this is where lighting design should be well planned in each room of your home. The questions that need to be asked are:

  • Where do I place lighting
  • What bulbs do I need and where
  • Which light do I use at different times of day

Optimizing Interior Lighting Design for better health

Incorporating lighting that mimic the natural patterns of daylight can help optimize circadian rhythms and promote better sleep and productivity.

strategies for optimizing interior lighting design

Here are some strategies for enhancing interior lighting design to positively impact your health:

  1. Overhead lighting: Overhead lighting can be really beautiful and make a statement in a space. But, when you include one in your design, I’d keep it to use during the day to follow the natural light temperature. I recommend using a 3000 K bulb to get a bright yet balanced lighting. Another aspect to look at is the actual fixture design and ensure the light is diffused to create a beautiful and smooth mood in the space.
  2. Task lighting: Incorporate task lighting in specific areas of your home, such as workspaces and reading nooks, kitchen islands and makeup vanities, to provide focused illumination for activities that require concentration. Choose task lights with adjustable brightness and color temperature to customize the lighting environment according to your needs. Ideally, use these lights in the afternoon and early evening and opt for a bulb that leans towards a yellow color, meaning around 2000 k.
  3. Accent lighting: Accent lighting is so fun. You can incorporate statement pieces and they are used to set the mood in a space, both visually and through their lighting. When well chosen, they provide a soft, diffused light for a warm and relaxing atmosphere. Use bulbs that are between 1500 to 2000 k. Light them up in the evening and night. Preferably, place them below eye level to reduce the chances of impacting your melatonin production at night.
  4. Dynamic Lighting Systems and dimmers: Invest in smart lighting systems that allow you to adjust the color temperature and intensity of light throughout the day. Program lighting scenes that mimic the natural progression of daylight, with cooler temperatures in the morning and warmer temperatures in the evening. Alternatively, consider dimmers to control the light throughout the day.

Other details to look out for

Taking into consideration both the amount of light (lux) in a space and the color temperature (kelvin) is important in your choices. In any type of situation, look out for the following details:

  • Make sure you have enough light to carry out your activities
  • Ensure the light is well spread in a space for a coherent look and more functionality
  • Use specific lighting for specific activities in a space (ex. makeup vanity versus bedroom lighting).
  • Try to use dimmers or multiple sources of light so that you can dim or turn off some at night
  • Aesthetically, multiple sources of light will provide a layered and cozy ambiance
  • Choose your color temperature wisely using the above-mentioned guidelines
  • Light fixtures and lamps are a huge part of the design style. Make sure they are well incorporated into the style of the space

Rituals

evening-rituals-bath-reading-tea

Rituals are a huge part of a good night sleep. You may ask, how is it related to lighting? It is! From exposure to the right light throughout the day, to routines that help sleep, all of it contributes to enhancing your wellbeing. So, here are a few routines you may like to adopt, to help you sleep better. While some are not essential, others are.

Morning Rituals: it starts in the morning! When you get up, go outside and get that early morning light exposure. It’s good vitamin D but also helps regulate your circadian rhythm and sleep. Try to exercice in the morning, especially the cardio and resistance training.

During the day: nutrition helps a lot. Make sure your sugar intake is low, eat nutritious, whole foods with good protein and fiber. Avoid caffeine intake after 2pm.

Evening rituals: establish evening rituals that signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Dim the lights in your home in the hours leading up to bedtime to promote relaxation and melatonin production. Avoid exposure to bright screens, as they emit blue light that can interfere with sleep quality. Other rituals may include a hot bath, aromatherapy in the bedroom, self-care routines including meditation, journaling and/or reading.

Conclusion

As we’ve explored, lighting plays a pivotal role in regulating our circadian rhythms and influencing our sleep-wake cycles, mood, and overall wellbeing. By understanding the science behind circadian rhythms and incorporating lighting design principles that mimic the natural patterns of daylight, we can create home environments that support healthy sleep habits and enhance productivity. Whether it’s maximizing natural light exposure, investing in dynamic lighting systems, or establishing evening rituals, optimizing interior lighting design can have a profound impact on our lives. So, always think of how your interior lighting design impacts your lifestyle and your health. Make your design human-centric first and foremost, aesthetics should come second. And this approach will lead to the best possible design for you and your family.

You need help designing your space or confirming some information? Get in touch for a call or design help.
And, if you haven’t already, download you free guide to designing a healthy and beautiful home.

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