Innovations in lighting technology impact more than efficiency
From healthier brains to a deeper sleep, embracing the benefits of LED lights
By now, many of us are aware of the benefits of LED technology: its superior energy efficiency, long life cycle, and soaring returns on investment. But what about the intangibles, those that are not so easily calculated but deliver other substantial benefits like return-on-health, return-on-knowledge, and return-on-positivity?
Research from LightingEurope, amongst others, found evidence that LED bulbs provide an array of health benefits. This is largely due to the fact that LED light more closely mirrors the spectral wave of natural daylight, whereas fluorescent lights emit large spikes in color that is disorienting to the brain.
Measured benefits for older adults include:
- Increased motivation
- Increased performance
- Increased productivity
- Improved concentration and energy
- Lower stress and anxiety
- “Mood support” in wellness and dining areas
- Enhanced drug efficacy
- Reduced therapy times and capacity requirements
Return-on-health: Physical utility
LED's even distribution of colors results in more saturated, vivid, discriminable color rendering and effortless visual acuity. Fully directional down-lighting also provides more illumination on working surfaces, rather than the diffuse glow produced by gas-filled fluorescent tubes. The color temperature, color rendering, and efficiency of LED lights combine to improve visibility and create a better environment, as vision is a major contributing factor to the ability to receive and respond to treatments.
LED lighting engineers have also focused on eliminating the light flicker commonly seen in fluorescent lights. Light flicker has been linked with headaches and other health problems that reduce both productivity and a general sense of well-being.
In addition, seniors who are known to experience “yellowing” of the eye lens find it difficult to discern differences in color and colors become less vivid. Bulbs like LED with a higher color rendering index will improve visibility and clarity, which increases safety and creates a sense of happiness.
Return-on-knowledge: Cognitive utility
Not only does LED provide emotional benefits via higher quality lighting, studies have also shown LED lighting can enhance surgical, procedure, and diagnostic settings as well. Most healthcare providers encourage patients to get a full eight hours of sleep to help their recovery. A healthy sleep/wake cycle, especially in older adults, is crucial to mental cognition and physical health. Our bodies’ 24-hour cycle is governed by hormonal responses triggered by full-spectrum light, light that is provided by sunlight and LED but not by fluorescent lighting.
Return-on-positivity: Psychological utility
We have all experienced the relief of leaving a fluorescent-lit room and stepping outside back out into the natural sunlight. The spectral output of fluorescent lights is to blame for this drastic physiological response. In winter months, many people are known to be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), while many more self-diagnose their yearly “winter blues.” LED lighting is used in the treatment of SAD and has also been shown to improve mood, decrease stress, and create a generally healthier and happier environment—all because the lighting spectrum mimics that of natural sunlight.
These studies and more are lending themselves to a new movement called human-centric lighting (HCL). It centers on the relationship between light and levels of well-being, where the effects on circadian rhythms—mental, physical, and biological changes—can be correlated to specific light conditions.
The discovery created two distinct purposes for HCL: biologically effective lighting to improve cognitive performance, and emotionally effective lighting to create stimulating environments. These important discoveries elevate the importance of LED lighting beyond the accepted benefits of energy efficiency, carbon reduction, and operating expense cost reduction, and into as-yet-uncalculated improvements to healthcare, education, and overall happiness.
This article was featured in Blueprints for Senior Living, the Design for Aging Knowledge Community's quarterly e-newsletter.
Michael Heller is a vice president at NextGen LED, a company dedicated to eco-friendly energy reduction solutions through LED lighting and energy bidding. He has over 15 years of real estate experience and is passionate about finding ways to enhance the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of seniors through LED lighting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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