Understanding Circadian Rhythm

Many of us underestimate the importance of lighting in our lives. It’s only when we start to look at the finer details that we start to understand just how lighting can impact our health, mood and entire day. As an example of this in action, did you know that nurseries and neonatal intensive care units have unique lighting requirements in order to acclimatise newborns to the outside world? These areas are under constant observation, and smart lighting control systems from the likes of Lutron are brought in to accommodate such needs.

But it’s not just babies that require the right kind of lighting. Let’s take a look at circadian rhythm and its relation to smart lighting. We can then also look into the relatively new and ever-expanding world of circadian rhythm lighting.

What Are Circadian Rhythms?

The term ‘circadian rhythm’ refers to functions within the human body that occur approximately every 24 hours. The word ‘circadian’ comes from Latin with ‘circa’ meaning ‘around’ and ‘diem’ meaning ‘day.’ Each person’s circadian rhythm is controlled by an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. This receives signals from the eyes that report when it’s daylight and night-time. The hypothalamus, in turn, controls the amount of melatonin released to correlate sleepiness with darkness and alertness with lightness.

It might sound complicated, but what you really need to know is that lighting can impact the amount of melatonin released, with the slightest unbalance having a huge impact on our routine and ability to function optimally. Let’s look at this in more detail. In an ideal world, we would spend our days in the sunshine and our nights under the stars in order to keep the circadian rhythm of our bodies regular. When we receive good daytime light signals, the master clock in our brain is able to tell our bodies to perform all kinds of functions – regulate body temperature, blood pressure, regulate metabolism, help us feel alert and much more. In the evening, our bodies receive proper darkness signals and our bodies can start preparing for sleep.

The problem is, many people are exposed to artificial lighting during both the day and night – in work, home and school environments. This disrupts the day and night-time circadian light signals our bodies need, and can result in long-term adverse effects such as low mood, fatigue, lack of concentration and poor sleep.

What is Circadian Lighting?

So, with all this in mind, circadian lighting is being increasingly researched to help provide humans with better light signals. From lights that slowly get brighter in the day and then dim again at night to both colour and intensity tuning which correlates with the time of day, there are many circadian lighting options being explored. Think back to the example with the newborn babies above. This is just one setting where lighting is super important.  But there’s no reason why this can’t be brought into workplace and home settings.

Lutron Certified Installers such as New Wave AV specialise in lighting solutions for the home, with timers and dimmer switches helping people to get the light and dark signals they need for better body regulation. This could have a surprising impact on how you feel, so it might be worth delving into the world of home lighting automation.

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