How Does Indoor Lighting Impact Our Well-Being?
In partnership with our friends at Brilli
When we think about light, it’s typically in the context of our vision, says Shadab Rahman, PhD, MPH. But really, it impacts us in so many different ways. Research shows that when we turn the lights on or off, it can affect gene expression, as well as behavior. “You can make people more or less alert. You can change their mood. There is a wide range of effects,” says Rahman, an instructor of medicine specializing in sleep and circadian neurophysiology at Harvard Medical School.
Lighting also affects our biological rhythms. We have a master biological clock, which is located in our brain, as well as one in every cell of our body. This means each cell in your liver, kidney, heart, and even skin has a molecular clock that optimizes when basic bodily processes—digesting food, breaking down molecules, creating energy—should happen, says Rahman. Ideally, our biological rhythms would be in tune with the rhythm of the natural world, of days and nights. But artificial light has changed this. “With the flick of a switch, we can go from darkness to light,” Rahman says. And this has the potential to negatively impact our health because “it goes against our evolution,” he says.
So we were intrigued to learn about Brilli, a new home-lighting collection intended to support the body’s natural biological rhythms. The company has taken the science behind why and how lighting impacts our physiology “and put it into practice,” says Rahman, who holds a position on Brilli’s advisory board. The collection comprises two types of bulbs: Charge Up bulbs cast crisp, bright light designed to simulate the clarity of natural daylight—they’re ideal for powering through your to-do list. And Wind Down bulbs create a softer, warmer glow designed to replicate late-afternoon and evening light; they’re meant to help you unwind and prepare for sleep.
Why It Works:
The Charge Up bulbs deliver a bright light that is blue-enriched, which has an invigorating effect that may increase alertness. The Wind Down light is the opposite: The blue portion of the spectrum is greatly reduced (to less than 1 percent blue light), so it’s a softer glow that’s conducive to relaxation.
Who Can Benefit?
Anyone can benefit from Brilli if the bulbs are used appropriately, says Rahman. What is “appropriate” use? Let’s say you’re trying to go to sleep. You would use the Wind Down bulb. “But if you were then to drink a large coffee, it wouldn’t matter what kind of optimized lights you have—you’re going to stay awake,” says Rahman. The key is to honor these lights by using them as intended.
Regularity is essential. To reap the most benefits from the lights, you need to maintain a consistent wake time and bedtime, says Rahman. Upon waking, expose yourself to bright, blue-enriched light (Charge Up). And then two to three hours before bedtime, turn to the blue-depleted, dim glow (Wind Down). “If you maintain that schedule regularly, you will reap the most benefit,” says Rahman.