How to Harness the Power of Light to Get Better Sleep

Modern life is all about innovating our way out of our inabilities. We’re not meant to fly, or live 20 stories in the air, or speak to a friend in New Zealand. And (buzzkill alert) we’re not meant to be awake when the sun don’t shine. Of all that we can now do, the latter may be the most universal. If we’ve mastered anything, it’s light. For the large part, this is good news; extra hours in the “day” mean we can socialize longer and get more work done.

Trouble is, evolution has programmed the human body to equate light with wakefulness. Our eyes treat blue-heavy light — like the soft glow of an iPad — like the midday sun. If indoor lighting (hell, even fire), kept us awake well past nature’s bedtime, the perpetual glow of our devices is just another nail in the coffin of the fabled eight-hours-a-night. The problem is widespread: By some estimates, some 95 percent of Americans use a device within one hour of bed.

So until we evolve beyond a light-regulated circadian sleep/wake rhythm — or until some dystopian future renders daylight hazardous to our health — we need to accept the relationship between light and sleep, and understand what we can do to help it along. Here’s how to do just that.

Why We’re Like This

Our bodies’ responsiveness to blue light stems more from Earth’s composition than from to the color of light itself. Blue wavelengths are able to penetrate the ocean surface better than others, which is what allowed them to reach life where it first began. As species wandered onto land, the reflectance of the sky perpetuated life’s dependence on blue light for cycle-setting. (Maybe if humans had evolved on Mars, we’d have developed a similar response to red light?)

That evolution has created a complex conduit that translates light into cues that set our daily circadian rhythm (see below) A small portion of our eye’s photoreceptor cells contain a protein called melanopsin, which springs into action in response to intense, blue light. When triggered, melanopsin transmits signals to the suprachiasmatic nucleus region of the hypothalamus — aka the body’s master clock — located behind the root of the nose. In turn, signals relay to the pineal gland and suppress production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

But, despite these adaptations, the human body remains slightly out of sync with Earth’s 24-hour cycle. If left unmediated by sunlight — as several studies have tested — the human clock will run on a 24.2-hour cycle, on average. That means, if you’re locked in a windowless room and left to sleep and wake at your own whims, your clock will slip 15-30 minutes for each day of isolation; within a month’s time, day and night will be reversed.

Daylight is the key to keeping rhythms in check. “Every day when you get up, you are resetting the biological clock,” explains Mariana G. Figueiro, program director at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center. “You’re advancing the timing of your biological clock so that it runs with 24 hours, rather than 24.2 hours.”

That’s why morning light, which is richest in high-intensity blue wavelengths, is most important to maintaining our circadian rhythm. During sleep, our melatonin levels peak as our core body temperature bottoms out. At this point, ideally sometime around 5am, sunrise provides a melatonin-suppressing dose of blue light that eases the body towards wakefulness and syncs it with the local time. That’s why, if we wait until noon to throw open the shades, getting on-schedule becomes more difficult. “If we give light at the wrong time, it’s bad,” says Figueiro, “[But] if we don’t get enough light during the day, we’re also going to be cranky.“

Once evening rolls around, blue wavelengths scatter and become more diffuse, giving way to the yellows, reds and pink we associate with sunset. This warmer light won’t trigger melanopsin, which allows our bodies to produce melatonin and ease into sleep.

A Struggle for Control

Of course, as scientists identify the mechanisms that regulate how the relationship between light and sleep should work, natural, geographic, and technological factors conspire to make it not work (see below)

As we age, for instance, the way our eyes deal with light changes. In a series of studies, the most recent of which published last year, Figueiro found that adolescents aged 15–17 are more sensitive to blue light (and therefore suppressed melatonin production) than other age groups; when exposed to light from devices like phones and tablets in the two hours leading up to bedtime, their melatonin levels dropped by 38 percent. This heightened sensitivity is all-but erased by the time we reach our 20s. Later in life, changes to the lens, such as yellowing or clouding, can block blue-light absorption, making it more difficult to wake and stay alert.

Our location on the globe can also play a key role. According to Anne-Marie Chang, who studies how our environment impacts sleep at Penn State University, people who live close to the poles, where daylight is either extended or shortened depending on the time of year, will eventually adapt and become able to maintain an eight-hour sleep cycle. People visiting those areas or traveling across time zones, however will have a tougher time. Jet lag sufferers know the cranky, groggy, out-of-it feeling all too well.

“You can adapt to effects of light depending on your environment, depending on the history of light exposure that you’ve had previously,” says Chang.” With jet lag, for instance, research suggests that you can reset to a two-hour time difference in four days or less — assuming a accumulation rate of 30-60 minutes with each passing day.

Such seasonal and geographic disruptions make electric lights something of a Catch-22. While they allow, say, Scandinavians, to work full days in the darkness of winter, they too make it far easier to outright ignore the body’s natural cycle. Artificial light allows us to work, play, or otherwise fiddle around long after our bodies want to start producing melatonin and get ready for bed. Sleeplessness and late-night partying, once blamable only on full moons, can now be a daily occurrence. “Maybe lighting is actually an enabler, because what’s it’s doing is it’s allowing you to disrupt your sleep?” wonders Figueiro.

It’s a fair point. But living in the dark after sundown is something even cavemen wouldn’t stand for (they did, after all, discover fire), so it’s left to us to be more-mindful of what light we’re around and when. Naturally, there’s no shortage of tech solutions that color-shift to sync light with our circadian rhythm (see below), but we needn’t replace, calibrate and schedule every bulb in our homes to survive

During the day, that means paying attention to not only the color, but the directionality and intensity of light. Photoreceptors containing melanopsin (remember that handy protein?) are clustered toward the bottom of the retina, making them most receptive to light that shines down into the eyes. Sunlight (duh) has an easy time reaching them; similarly, artificial light in offices, schools, and hospitals is best when it comes from above. At the same time, the melanopic response requires bright light as much as it does blue light.

At night, the opposites are true. That means dimming lights and killing overheads in favor of table lamps, both of which work to prevent as much light as possible from reaching melanopsin-containing receptors. Bad news: Illuminated e-readers, phones and tablets, which shine light right into your eyes are a no-no, but old-fashioned paper books are okay.

“If you’re reading a book with a lamp, that light source is directed at a page, or it’s directed away from you; you’re not looking directly at it,” says Chang.

More bad news: Activating Night-Shift mode or other color-changing app is not a get-out-of-jail-free card; changing the color without reducing brightness will still stop melatonin production.

Now a bit of good news: According to Figueiro, pitch black is not a necessity. A bit of streetlight or a nightlight in the hallway shouldn’t throw you off. “The circadian system is blind to that light. You’re better off having a 7-watt, warm-color nightlight than trying to navigate the space in the dark,” she says.

At the end of the day, experts agree that we need to accept our bodies’ response to light. It’s not something we can ignore or innovate our way around. In fact, the more we try and hack, skirt or otherwise mess with our natural pattern, the more we set ourselves up for a perpetual case of the Mondays.

Credits : By Corinne Iozzio

The post How to Harness the Power of Light to Get Better Sleep appeared first on The Lab | Lighting Science – LED Bulbs Lamps & Solutions.

The Sleep Race: Let There Be Light

I dare to say that every hotel and hotel chain on the planet is today either thinking of or implementing measurements on how to offer their guest a better night sleep. I very much welcome that the cheap crap beds are thrown out and high quality beds and linen are starting to be standard. However, a great bed, a kick-ass pillow menu, some sleep scent and chamomile tea is not enough. Business travelers are incredibly important to us so it’s good to know is that 50 million to 70 million U.S. adults, roughly a third or more of the workforce, are estimated to have some type of sleep disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One-third of U.S. adults reported struggling with at least one symptom of insomnia nearly every night (National Sleep Foundation).

This is a huge opportunity for the hospitality industry to moderate sleep loss and fatigue interference significantly with performance. Studies show that people who experience moderate sleep deprivation perform as poorly (or more so) on tests of cognitive and motor skills as people who are legally too drunk to drive. Over time, poor quality and insufficient sleep significantly increase risks for a number of serious, chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, obesity, diabetes, and depression. Higher-level cognitive functions appear to be especially hard hit by poor sleep. Logical reasoning skills, decision making and judgment, and other forms of complex thinking are significantly undermined by lack of sleep.

So, ok, we have established that this is a real opportunity, what to do? Well there is a couple of basics, where one has not yet been given the significance it deserves and that is biological lighting. There is perhaps no more powerful force in nature than light. It influences everything from our cells to our mood and metabolism. Blue wavelengths cue the brain to produce cortisol to make us alert, while red wavelengths allow the production of melatonin to help us sleep a cycle that once followed the sun and the moon. The invention of the light bulb (and smartphones) changed that. Engineers are now using light bulbs to change it back.

Genesis by Lighting Science Group“The science has led us to understand that the light we have been using for the past 100 years has caused damage to us,” says Fred Maxik, Founder of Lighting Science Group (LSG). When our circadian rhythms went rogue, it increased our risk of developing obesity, depression and even cancer. That doesn’t have to be the case, Maxik says: “We have the ability to create lights that have purposes other than just illuminating our world.”

LSG has recently launched their Genesis lamp, with dynamic lighting where you can change the spectrum to increase your wellness depending on time of day. Furthermore, with the use of monochromatic and polychromatic wavelengths true chromo therapy can be achieved, often use in psychotherapy to enhance mood. Without the right light before you go to bed, and too much blue light, you miss out on the crucial delta sleep or deep sleep when the body heals itself and the consequences are dire. There are of course other brands out there, and LSG is perhaps the most advanced to date, but rest assure that the race has just begun as we start to uncover the huge importance of light and sleep.

We are Six Senses is embarking on a sleep journey that has taken us over 3 years to create, 4 by the time it is rolled out, and I believe that it will be the most advanced in the hospitality industry. At least when it is launched! More to come on sleep in future blogs.

Credits: Anna Bjurstam

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10 Stylish Indoor Plant Displays

lsgc-blog-interior-plant-mainsIndoor plants bring a home to life, while creating jaw-dropping aesthetic wow? What were once a few leafy stems sprouting from grim clay pots are now becoming elaborate and clever designs. Today, with the added help of LED grow lights, anything and everything goes when it comes to creative, exciting houseplant displays. If you can dream it, you can have it, and it can transform your living space. For a glimpse of the possibilities, here are ten stylish indoor plant displays guaranteed to spark your imagination.

1. Just Hanging Around

Who says house plants belong on counters and floors? A vertical wall display offers a botanical breath of fresh air and can easily be supported with grow lights.

LED Grow LightsSource –

2. Grow With the Flow

The industrial chic design movement has given us this exposed chord trend, which was taken a step further to help support indoor plant growth!


3. How it Stacks Up

Stylish and space-saving defines this display.

stacking plants indoorsSource –

4. Same Function. Different Look

Contemporary table design seamlessly merges the old and the new.

retrohouseplant standSource –

5. New Possibilities for Pots

Is there hope for the potted plant or is it doomed to dullsville? The answer lies in creative decorating. In fact, you can decorate virtually any pot with your own hands, thereby saving money while proving your creative genius to the world.

getting crafty with houseplantsSource –

6. Stepping Up

Plants arranged on a staircase create the ultimate flight of fancy.

Indoor PlantsSource – Light and Ladder

7. Do What You Can

Why should Andy Warhol have all the fun with soup cans? Any flavor will do.

LED Grow LightsSource –

8. A Tasty Dish

Simply add soil and assorted plants, and voila – garden on demand.

coffee n succulentsSource –

9. Beauty from Above

The hanging fern perfectly displays the versatility of houseplant displays.

LED Grow LightsSource –

10. When In a Dark Place

Darker rooms needn’t be devoid of plant life! We can use grow lights or even make the plants a part of the fixtures.

LED Grow LightsSource –

Healthy Plants Have a Part to Play

No matter how clever we get with our indoor displays, if the plants are wilting or sagging our display will be ruined. As care-taking plays such a crucial role in optimal plant growth and development, many decorators shy away from fun plant arrangements out of fear of killing their decor, literally. Enter LED grow lights, proven lover and stimulator of houseplants everywhere. These lamps are loaded with advantages adored by the average geranium and domestic cactus.

A simple LED grow bulb can be added to almost any light fixture or lamp and simple timers can be easily installed to relieve you of any extra obligation or stress.  LED grow lights are extremely energy efficient, so these installations won’t have much of an effect on your electric bill. They also limit excess heat emissions, thereby controlling radiant temperatures. Overheating from less-efficient indoor grow lights sometimes creates high ambient temperatures – temperatures that actually can dry out or burn plant life. With LEDs, you won’t have to worry if the light from your window can reach the plant in the corner. Meaning, you can focus your full concentration on more important things, like watering!

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Individuals Exposed to Blue Wavelength Lights Experienced Faster Reaction Times

brain blue wavelength light

A new study found that blue wavelength light exposure led to subsequent increases in brain activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) when participants were engaging in a cognitive task after cessation of light exposure.

The results also showed that a short single exposure to blue light for half an hour is sufficient to produce measurable changes in reaction times and more efficient responses (answered more items correctly per second) during conditions of greater cognitive load after the light exposure had ended. Moreover, these improvements were directly associated with measurable changes in the activation of the prefrontal cortex.

“Previous studies only focused on the effects of light during the period of exposure. Our study adds to this research by showing that these beneficial effects of blue wavelength light may outlast the exposure period by over 40 minutes,” said lead author Anna Alkozei, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona. “Blue-enriched white light could be used in a variety of occupational settings where alertness and quick decision making are important, such as pilot cockpits, operation rooms, or military settings. It could also be used in settings where natural sunlight does not exist, such as the International Space Station. Importantly, our findings suggest that using blue light before having to engage in important cognitive processes may still impact cognitive functioning for over half an hour after the exposure period ended. This may be valuable in a wide range of situations where acute blue light exposure is not a feasible option, such as testing situations.”

The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented Sunday, June 12 and Wednesday, June 15, in Denver at SLEEP 2016, the 30th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS).

“These findings are important as they link the acute behavioral effects of blue light to enhanced activation of key cortical systems involved in cognition and mental control,” said William D. S. Killgore, PhD, the senior author and principal investigator of the project.

The study consisted of 35 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 32 years. The participants were randomized to receive a 30-minute exposure to either blue (active) or amber (placebo) light immediately followed by a working memory task during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The study was supported by a U. S. Army Medical Acquisition Activity Award No. W81XWH-14-1-0571.

Credits: Sleep Review Magazine Article – Published on

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