What can I do as an employee?
We can use better lighting to optimise its alerting effects and improve our alertness, safety and productivity. As an added bonus, we can also take advantage of more modern energy-efficient lighting to reduce energy costs.
Here are some tips on what you can do:
Maintain as stable a light-dark cycle
Try to maintain as stable a light-dark cycle as possible, with bright blue-enriched days (or daylight), dim, blue depleted light as long as possible before bed, and darkness - or an eye mask - during sleep. For shift workers, this may prove a little more complex, but the same principles apply when seeking to stay alert.
As a general rule, avoid use of any electronic devices in the bedroom or directly before sleep.
Seek out the right light globes
Identify the light globes for the right time and place in your home. Put higher Watt, higher CCT (Correlated Colour Temperature) globes (5,000-6,500K) in places where you send most of your time in the day, and then lower Watt and lower CCT globes (2,700-3,000K) in places you spend time in the evening (you can find the CCT information in the globe specifications, or on the box that the globe comes in). If you have two different light sources in each space, take advantage of that.
For example, your bedroom may have a ceiling light and a bedside light. Put the (higher CCT globes in the ceiling to switch on when you wake up and the dimmer, lower CCT globes in your bedside lamp to minimise alertness before bed. In the bathroom, put the high CCT lights in the ceiling or shower to help you get going in the morning, and use the low CCT lights as vanity lighting to use when cleaning your teeth before bed. In the kitchen, put high CCT lighting in the ceiling for daytime use and low CCT lights for the under-cupboard lighting in the evening. And, in your sitting room, ensure that you are using the dimmest and lowest CCT lighting in the evening to help prepare the brain for sleep.
Seek out speciality globes
Several companies produce lights for the home specifically designed to help improve alertness or promote sleep by manipulating the blue-light content. These may be more effective that using CCT alone when selecting the lights. There are even programmable lights that can emit different colours at different times and you can explore how their light ‘recipes’ can work with your lifestyle. And remember, buying LED lighting will give the additional benefit of reducing your home energy usage.
Be device-free at bedtime
Most electronic devices emit large amounts of blue-enriched light. The alerting effect of this light is amplified by having the devices so close to the eyes. As a general rule, avoid use of any electronic devices (e.g., TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone, eReader) in the bedroom or directly before sleep. Try and get into the habit of being device-free for as long as possible before bed (e.g., 30 or 60 minutes) – you can use this time to do other things to help sleep, such as relaxation or breathing exercises, meditation, a warm bath, or reading in dim light. If you get up in the night, try and do without a nightlight but if you need one, use a dim red-orange light.
If you must use your electronic devices at night, then there are a number of ways to reduce the impact of the blue light emitted from the screens, including ‘blue-blocking’ filters and glasses or software that changes the light output from your screen. These come in a range of types and quality but in general will have some benefit compared to doing nothing at all. Some manufacturers have also started to include blue-reducing software on their devices, again with variable impact, but using them will be better than not. Free software for most systems, along with data on how much ‘melanopic’ light will be reduced, is also available from www.flux.com.
While none of these approaches are perfect (the only way to avoid light is to be in the dark!), they may help reduce some of the negative impact of light before sleep.
Be like an astronaut
NASA is using special lighting technology to help astronauts sleep on the International Space Station. MultiLED lighting is currently being installed with three standard settings: high quality light for normal daytime use; higher intensity blue-enriched light for night-work or times when maximum alertness is needed; and lower intensity, blue-depleted light before sleep each night. Find out more on the NASA website.
For more advice on home-based ‘biological’ lighting solutions, contact the CRC for Alertness, Safety and Productivity.