Traditionally, color is something that is normally associated with fashion, art, and décor. It’s a choice to wear bright colors in the summer, or to pick the perfect paint color for a bedroom. Many food-related products and restaurants feature the color red in their designs as it is thought that red will stimulate one’s appetite. Politicians carefully select the color of a blue or red tie to symbolize strength and confidence.
While examples like these of the use of color are numerous and occur regularly in many areas of daily routines, the understanding and use of light, and varying light colors, is quickly becoming an emerging area of scientific and academic research. Think of how your body feels on a cloudy day versus a sunny day, or the difference between a bright, cool office versus a warm, relaxing fire flickering in the living room. It’s well understood that lighting directly impacts a space’s atmosphere, but a growing body of research is exploring how light can actually affect one’s physiology and how one feels.
This research is primarily exploring how various wavelength, or color, lighting can affect one’s circadian rhythm, or the body's biological clock. While research is ongoing, current thought suggests that exposure to shorter wavelength, or ‘blue’ light, in the morning will help one’s body to wake and become alert, while exposure to the same type of light in the evening and at night can be very disruptive to the body. This type of blue light exposure at night is thought to suppress the body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that helps one fall asleep and sleep well. Many electronic devices emit blue light, and evening use can contribute to disruption in sleep patterns, according to Stephen Lockley, a Harvard sleep researcher. "Light at night is part of the reason so many people don't get enough sleep," says Lockley, "and researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems." In contrast, it is thought longer wavelength, or ‘red’ light, at night is non-disruptive to production of melatonin, allowing for a great night’s sleep.
Considering how prevalent and how much of an effect light and color has in our daily routines, it’s amazing that we are only beginning to understand how light affects our well-being. Two optometry students from Nova Southeastern University, Jeremy Chartash and Jay Harrelson, recently partnered with ilumi to further explore the relationship between light and human health.
The pair recently participated in Walmart’s Project Foresight, a national optometry competition, in which they developed an idea for an optometry practice that would cater to patients with autism. “We recognized the unique needs of each individual on the spectrum, so we created an office that was dynamic and could change based on the need of the patient so they do not have to,” said Chartash. They designed the practice waiting room that enables their patients to change the seating, movies, music and even the color of the room. In their video presentation, they used our very own ilumi® LED Smartbulbs to illustrate how patients could easily change the color of the waiting room and sync to music using the ilumi app. Chartash and Harrelson won Walmart’s Project Foresight contest, which awarded them a $15,000 scholarship, based on their innovative idea for the future of optometry.
So, congratulations to Chartash and Harrelson! We’re excited to see more great minds pursue lighting as more than just something to help one see, but as something to improve how one lives.
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