Health Benefits of Natural Full Spectrum Lighting

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The sun provides true full-spectrum light.
The sun provides true full-spectrum light.

In the 1960s, photobiologist Dr. John Ott coined the term "full-spectrum" to describe electric light sources that simulate the ultraviolet spectrum of natural light. The sun is the only source of true full-spectrum lighting, but electric lighting manufacturers and scientists have worked for years to create artificial lighting sources that closely mimic the sun's light. Health benefits linked to exposure to natural daylight and full-spectrum lighting include increased visual acuity, greater productivity and concentration, and multiple mental health improvements.

  1. Visual Benefits

    • Full-spectrum lighting heightens visual acuity.
      Full-spectrum lighting heightens visual acuity.

      Full-spectrum lighting helps improve the visual ability to resolve fine detail. Depth perception improves and the eyes work more efficiently in natural lighting. These factors increase comfort while working and help alleviate the stress of the working environment by making visual tasks physically easier.

      Businesses that rely on visual acuity, such as design studios, print shops and retail stores, may find the greatest benefit from increasing natural daylight and converting to full-spectrum electric light sources in the workplace.

    Productivity

    • Natural light improves test scores.
      Natural light improves test scores.

      Research validates claims that natural full-spectrum lighting increases human productivity and concentration. One study conducted by the Heschong Mahone Group in Sacramento, California tested 20,000 students in California, Colorado and Massachusetts in 1998 and 2002. Standardized test scores were as much as 26 percent higher among students who attended classes in buildings lit primarily by natural light, compared to those whose classes were held in locations illuminated by artificial light sources.

    Circadian Rhythms

    • Circadian rhythms are set with exposure to natural light.
      Circadian rhythms are set with exposure to natural light.

      Humans respond strongly to the cycles of light and darkness. Circadian rhythms govern the sleep/wake cycle, and other bodily activities go through similar daily patterns. These include mental awareness, mood and the working of the immune system. Exposure to full-spectrum light is the most important environmental stimulus for synchronizing these cycles.

    SAD

    • Short winter days can bring about seasonal depression.
      Short winter days can bring about seasonal depression.

      Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, affects some people during the winter months. Its prevalence increases the further one lives from the equator. Contrary to popular belief, this form of seasonal depression stems from the decreased exposure to natural light during the shorter days of winter---not from colder temperatures or less time spent outdoors. Longer periods of darkness and shorter hours of daylight disrupt the circadian rhythms and for some, the end result is SAD. Symptoms typically appear in late fall and include fatigue, change in appetite, restlessness and feelings of gloom or despair.

      Treatment varies, but usually includes more exposure to full-spectrum light, typically through the use of lamps specifically designed for light therapy.

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  • Photo Credit Sun image by KPICKS from Fotolia.com Color guide to match colors for printing image by Piter Pkruger from Fotolia.com taking test image by Petro Feketa from Fotolia.com earth day & night-eurasia image by Michael Brown from Fotolia.com winter image by blaine stiger from Fotolia.com

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