The 3 Psychological and 3 Physiological Impact of Light Design
04 July 2023
Lighting plays a key role in the designing and planning of any interior. It shapes our perception of spaces and influences our emotions. But beyond just aesthetics, the quality and characteristics of light impact our psychological and physiological well-being and mood. The relationship between light and the human experience is a fascinating one with lots to consider.
The Psychological Impact of Light
Mood Enhancement: Light greatly affects our mood and natural light, in particular, has a positive impact on how we feel. Exposure to daylight or artificial light that closely resembles daylight stimulates the release of serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter known for promoting happiness and well-being. By incorporating natural light by way of windows, skylights and daylight bulbs, you can create an uplifting and cheerful environment within the home.
Circadian Rhythm Regulation: Our circadian rhythm is an internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle and it is deeply influenced by light. With this in mind, it's important to note that insufficient exposure to natural light or excessive exposure to artificial light can disrupt this rhythm which leads to disrupted sleep and mood disorders.
Colour Perception: The colour temperature of light in a room plays an important role in how we feel while spending time in that space. Lighting with a warmer colour temperature creates a cosy, inviting ambience and encourages one to relax. Lighting with a cooler colour temperature evokes a sense of energy and focus and is ideal for use in task-oriented environments where people need to feel awake and alert.
The Physiological Impact of Light
Vitamin D Production: In terms of natural light, nothing beats the sun for our daily dose of vitamin D which is so crucial for bone health, immune function and mood regulation. In countries where sunlight is not abundant, many people use indoor UV devices to promote the production of vitamin D and act as a sunshine supplement. Insufficient exposure to sunlight can lead to vitamin D deficiencies and is associated with an increased risk of depression, fatigue, and weakened immunity which is why it is so important to maximize natural light in a living space when planning layout and design.
Sleep Quality: The type of light we are exposed to before bed significantly impacts our sleep patterns. This is why exposure to screens such as tablets and smartphones is not recommended in the lead-up to bedtime. They emit a blue light which suppresses the production of melatonin (a sleep hormone). Ideally, you want lighting with a warm colour temperature and dimming capabilities to promote a good night’s rest.
Eye Health: Insufficient illumination or excessive glare from bright lights can cause the occupants of a room to strain their eyes which in turn leads to discomfort, headaches and reduced productivity. A well-designed lighting scheme will offer adequate illumination without causing glare. The goal is to minimise eye strain and enhance visual comfort.
How to Illuminate a Space for Well-being
Natural Light: Maximise the use of natural light through open-concept floor plans. Position workspaces and seating areas near windows to benefit from daylight and views of the outdoors.
Artificial Lighting: Select light fixtures and bulbs that are in line with the mood you want to create in a space and enhance how you use it. If you’re uncertain, use these ranges as a guideline:
Living Room: 3800-4500K
Home Office: 3700-5000K
Layered Lighting: Use a combination of ambient, task and accent lighting to not only create visual interest in a room but also allow for flexibility in adjusting light levels and direction for different activities.
Light Control: Fixtures that allow for a certain degree of control and customisation will allow you to adapt your illumination to different times of day and personal preferences, supporting circadian rhythm regulation and individual comfort. Dimmer switches and smart lighting are ideal for this.