Positioning of Circadian Rhythms

February 14, 2017

Circadian rhythms have become more and more a trending topic within the lighting industry. The call to acclimatise lighting geared closer toward your natural 24-hour cycle has led to multiple developments in reducing negative effects or boosting positive influences on ‘sleep-wake’ cycles, hormone release, body temperature and more.


Are these Rhythms fact or fiction?

Having come under mild scrutiny about the Rhythms actually just being a result of learned behaviour over years, the information that exists today gives substantial weight to the argument of an inbuilt regulatory function pre-determined in organisms to respond to the environment in such a way.

Scientists learnt about these functions through studying humans extensively. They control the subject’s environment by altering light and dark periods and then look for changes in gene activity or other molecular signals. Such studies reveal our relationship with light and temperature to be hardwired into us from a very early stage in life and opens further questions into the potential future of the lighting industry.


So where does OUR light fit in with this?

One crucial thing to understand is that Circadian Rhythms are produced naturally within the body but are cued by external changes in the environment (Light being the main change stimulating particular genes that control our ‘internal clocks’).

Our innovative capacities throughout the last few centuries have dramatically changed our environment (and not always for the better). Abnormal circadian rhythms have been linked with Jet lag, Sleep disorders like Insomnia, Obesity, Diabetes, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder and so on. This is because disruptions to these natural patterns in the body tend to have a negative effect short-term.

Our exposure to lighting today is a major disruption to our biological function. Our expectation to work longer hours into the night, to check our phones, tablets & laptops throughout the day (and night) means multiple messages get taken in by the body and often conflicts with its natural order.

Industry leaders have used it as an opportunity to take another chance at developing lighting that better works with our bodily function. This ranges from experimenting with colour tone (changing the tone of the lighting to better mimic natural light) to creating varied forms of automation (getting lighting that automatically changes or adapts to reflect your environment, but also your average daily routine).


What could the implications be for Lighting Design?

Some see the effects of Circadian Rhythms as a sign to return to days and night by sunlight, others see it as an opportunity to improve the man-made line of progress we have made as a society to improve our quality of life.


Image: ‘Day and Night’, Stick wars the drum awakens – https://mapaspercussiongroups.bandcamp.com/track/stick-wars-the-drum-awakens


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