This blog explains how lighting influences your mood and performance and teaches you how to create an effective light plan. After reading the 4 tips on illuminance, home furnishing design and how to choose lamps and light sources, you are able to improve your mood and performance with light.
Relation of light to mood, health and productivity
Image walking outside on a sunny day. It’s great right? And now imagine sitting at home on a gray and overcast day, with no lights on. Although we all experience it, few people are aware of the effect of light on their mood and performance. A study in 2002 actually explains how it works. Next to the rods and cones in our eyes, it found a third type of receptor. That receptor absorbs light, sends it through to the part of the brain that controls our circadian rhythm and our biological clock, and thus arranges the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and cortisol, the stress hormone. By controlling our access to light, we can thus change how we feel.
Multiple studies found that daylight improves psychological health and productivity. For people living in countries far north of the equator, getting not enough (day)light in the winter can make us even a little bit depresses and feel tired – me included. A walk outside does wonders for their mood and energy level through lighting and vitamin D. According to the same study, daylight coming in through windows also improves mood, health and productivity. Thus, it is smart to always pick the spot closest to a window in a room, if it’s your office block, at your home or in a café. The study does have one remark: don’t sit close to the window when there are no shading curtains to prevent annoying screen glares from direct sunlight, as that is bad for our mood. But anyway, it’s not only daylight and sunlight that improves your energy level through these eye receptors, artificial lighting does the trick as well! In this blog, you’ll find tips for creating an effective light plan that improves your mood and energy level.
1. Provide sufficient light
A study found that insufficient or inappropriate light exposure can disrupt standard human rhythms which produces bad results for performance, safety and health. A shortage of light is bad for us, both during the day and at night. Increased ambient light (the indirect light that is reflected from the walls) and good colour design has found to improve mood, even in the countries where people suffer from winter depression. Too dark spaces produced the worst mood, but light that was too bright was not good for mood as well. Important is to have just enough light that you need for the task that you are doing. Hence, you should distuinguish three types of lighting based on its function.
Three types of lighting
– General lighting: These are the lights that substitute daylight when or where there is none. You have to be able to move comfortly through the room and be able to clean the room without bumping into something and you need uniform, shadow-free light with maximum spread for this.
– Task lighting: These lamps concentrate light at a limited area where a specific activity takes place, like desks, reading lamps, kitchen lighting, mirror lamps.
– Mood and accent lighting: Lamps or (electronic) candles create a friendlier atmosphere by highlighting beautiful things, hiding ugly things, lighting up very dark areas or by being art themselves.
2. Make a lighting plan
To create a good lighting plan that helps preserve your mood or support office performance, you need to ask yourself three questions.
- Where in the space do you perform which tasks?
- Which type of lighting do you need where?
- Where are the sockets and switches?
Draw which kind of lamp you will place where. Keep to this order: first task lighting, then mood and accent lighting and then general lighting.
Take into account that you’ll need more sources of light than you think. IKEA recommends to use 7 to 10 sources of light in your living room, depending on the size of your living room.
3. Choose the right lamp
- General lighting is most of the time supplied by ceiling lamps, like chandeliers and track lamps, but sometimes also by standing floorlamps that can be dimmed or turned up.
- Task lighting is provided by desk lamps, reading lamps, LED strips, spot tracks, panel lights and cabinet lights.
- Mood lighting is provided by table lamps, wall lamps, (LED) candles, light chords, cabinet and picture lights.
Of course, you can always choose for dimmer switches, motion sensors or (WIFI) remotes or even set specific timing for lights by old-fashioned timers, wake-up lights or modern WIFI programming apps like TRADFRI. You should evaluate this before selecting a lamp and light source, because not all lamps and light sources work with all switches and remotes.
4. Choose the right light source
Of course you always choose LED, because it will save energy up to 85%. The energy efficiency of simple IKEA light sources is A, A+ or A++, with a lifetime of 25,000 hours (20 years) or 15,000 hours (10 years).
Check the fittings of the lamps – for instance E14 (small fitting), E27 (big fitting) or pin fittings (G4, G9, GU10, GU4, GU5.3 and GX53).
Choose for a clear or an opal bulb – Clear bulbs provide distinct contrasts and opal bulbs diffuse the light. You use a clear bulb in table lamps or floorlamps and lamp shades that center the lighting to a specific point or in lamps designed to create a pattern on the wall.You use opal bulbs when you want a more even distribution of the light. The type of lighting gives you the answer to this.
- Choose how much light the LED bulb should give off (luminous flux, measured in lumens). For performing cognitive tasks, like doing administration, older people need higher illuminance levels (Knez & Kers, 2000). Lower illuminance (i.e. 120 lx), lower colour temperature or ‘warmer’ lighting and orange colour accents create a cozy ambience (Kuijsters, De Ruyter & Heynderickx, 2015). The cozy ambience was more effective in calming anxious elderly than the neutral ambience: they reported higher pleasure and less arousal (Kuijsters, De Ruyter & Heynderickx, 2015).
- Choose the colour temperature (measured in Kelvin). ‘Warm white’ (2700 K) is the one that corresponds with the old incandescent light bulbs. It is often chosen for mood lighting, as it creates a cozy ambience. For task lighting, it is good to choose for ‘cold white’ (4000 K) or ‘daylight’ (6200 K) for task lighting. Although Ashavi, Shopian, Nor, Chuan & Bahri (2013) concluded that there is physically no absolute perfect light color temperature for office workers, they also concluded that they found cool white light the most comfortable and daylight temperature the most preferred lighting. People working under warm white light have the highest level of alertness, while they type fastest under cool white light. What I find very significant, is that gender and age does matter in people’s evaluation of colour temperature. Young people (around 23) stay happier when doing cognitive tasks under cool white lighting, while older adults (around 65) stay happier under warm white lighting (Knez & Kers, 2000). Males perform best on short-term memory and problem solving tasks in the ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ white lighting, and women perform better than men in the artificial ‘daylight’ white lighting (Knez, 1995). Furthermore, two hours of cognitive work under warm light (3000 K) produces a more negative mood for women, while the same goes for men under cold, bluish light (4000 K) (Knez, 1998). So, if you are young or a women, light sources with high Kelvin are good choice for task lighting and if you are old or male, light sources with low Kelvin are a better choice for task lighting.
How to influence your mood and performance with lighting
To summarize how you can influence mood and performance with lighting:
1. Make sure you provide sufficient lighting. It is better to have too much lighting available than too little.
2. Create a light plan based on your activities and home furnishing elements.
3. Choose the right lamp
I hope that you now have all the information to create and implement the perfect light plan that meets all your needs. If you have any questions left or want to share your light plan or home pictures, please share it by leaving a comment. If you think you’ll need to use the details of this blog at another time, than keep this blog at hand by pinning this image on Pinterest: