Amongst the many benefits of LED, the positive aspects for human health and wellbeing are often overlooked.
Research shows that both natural and artificial lighting affects people’s health, mood, wellbeing, and alertness. The intensity and colour temperature of artificial lighting affect various physiological processes in the human body, such as blood pressure, heart rate variability, core temperature and melatonin.
Moreover, exposure to lighting with different illuminances and correlated colour temperature can affect the quality of sleep, the mood, alertness, and perceived self-efficacy of the subjects studied.
One of the big advantages LED has over its traditional counterparts is that its light output is the closest spectral match of any type of artificial light to natural sunlight. Out of all the lighting technologies, LED is the one that mimics natural light most closely.
LED emits light at precise frequencies, meaning it can be tailored to specific medical and health ailments. Night workers know all too well how the lack of sunlight can affect their sleep patterns and moods. Instances of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) have resulted in specific lamps being developed to help with this condition.
In addition to physiological and psychological effects of different types of lighting, research has indicated that specific lighting conditions may also increase human performance. Studies show that artificial lighting can have positive effects on working speed, accuracy, and task performance.
Sleep and Body Clock
LED can be controlled to adjust the spectral light content along with light levels throughout the day, mimicking natural sunlight, which in turns helps our body clocks to stay in rhythm. During the time around midday, blue light helps encourage hormone production for energy levels, whereas in the late afternoon and early evening, warmer colour temperatures help to produce hormones like melatonin, which helps with sleep. Conversely, traditional lighting that uses lots of bright white light is known to suppress melatonin production.
With LED, there is no flickering and hum that you get with traditional lighting, leading to less headaches. Flickering lights can trigger migraine attacks.
It’s common for LED to be used in treating depressive disorders due to its likeness to natural sunlight. In the last few years LED light boxes for the treatment of Seasonal Affective Disorder have been proven to be just as effective as traditional tube bulb SAD Light devices.
When it comes to depression, scientists in Australia found that neurological firing in the brain caused mice to exhibit depressive behaviour. The scientists showed that split-second control of specific brain circuitry can switch depression-related behaviour on and off with flashes of an LED light.
Other clinical trials suggest that bright light therapy could help treat symptoms of major depression in older adults. Results of the trial showed those given bright light therapy made improvements similar to the use of antidepressant drugs. They also showed an increased level in the evening of the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin, and a decrease in levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
In relation to eyesight and vision disorders, LED only produces light in the visible spectral range, with no harmful ultraviolet or infrared radiation which can contribute to conditions like cataracts and age-related degeneration. The control afforded by LED also prevents eye strain.
Several case studies have been conducted which show that LED has a positive effect on human productivity and concentration. A case study carried out at a primary school in the Netherlands found that when comparing LED to traditional lighting, pupils performed better on concentration performance than their peers and, overall, pupils’ performance increased at consecutive time points, indicating a potential learning effect. In addition to an overall learning effect for pupils, the LED light setting had a positive effect on pupils’ concentration. The researchers also found a significant reduction in error rates with LED lighting systems.
When it comes to workforces, traditional fluorescent lighting is most often too bright or too dim, which causes discomfort, eye strain and drowsiness. The mid-afternoon slump is a common phenomenon, with errors more likely to made in the second part of the day. Using LED is one of the most efficient ways to boost productivity in the workplace.
Many forms of traditional lights contain mercury, a chemical which is incredibly harmful to the environment and human health. When broken, compact fluorescent bulbs release 20 times the maximum acceptable mercury concentration. However, they don’t even need to be broken to unleash harmful chemicals.
The British Dermatological Association spoke out against CFL bulbs, finding that their patients were having adverse reactions to their use due to the fact that they emit ultraviolet radiation, which can be harmful to people with eyesight conditions or skin sensitivity issues.