Natural Light: Positive Effects on the Brain and Health

I have been studying research in the area of natural light and its interaction on the human brain. An important point to make is that appropriate exposure to natural light has positive effects on our circadian rhythm and in turn promotes many aspects of health.

We evolved from exposure to natural day lighting. The sun provides a specific wavelength (blue range) in the early morning that lasts until early afternoon. At that point a different light wavelength is produced (red to orange range). We recently discovered that the retina has a specific photoreceptor that detects light and sends it to a special part of the brain known as the suprachiasm, located near the hypothalamus. Once the suprachiasm is triggered, it sets off the hypothalamus, the master gland that in turn triggers the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands of the brain and body. The hormonal reaction to light is what causes and promotes the diverse actions of the body and health.

The blue range of light helps our bodies become aroused, alert, attentive and focused. As the day proceeds and we enter the afternoon when the blue range of light shifts to the red/orange range our bodies begin the process of slowing and ultimately sleeping. Our body slows in blood pressure and we enter the four stages of sleep including deep sleep. Melatonin is produced and growth hormones are triggered.

The circadian rhythm (means approximately a day) is critically important to our health as it has effects on our immune system, ability to fight off disease, hunger and obesity, blood pressure, and cognition. It controls our sleep wake cycle so important for brain function and body regulation.

I have learned that there are design lighting systems that help to promote exposure to natural light, to help set the circadian rhythm, and to promote human performance in the workplace and school. Natural lighting via design lighting systems can also help older adults residing in assisted living or long-term care facilities. Older adults experience changes in their sleep wake cycles and this gets exacerbated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies support increased school performance by students, and reduced agitation and increased sleep for older adults who reside or study in environments with the natural day lighting systems.

Email or call me if you work in a school district, an assisted living facility, or other building and have interest in enhancing human behavior and saving money from the energy efficiencies of natural day lighting systems.

23 thoughts on “Natural Light: Positive Effects on the Brain and Health”

  1. I read a report in The Mind Health Report about roofing design systems; is this applicable to single family houses? If so, where can I find our more about these?

  2. In the past few years Pepsi has been known for inventing and selling strangely flavored versions of their renown Pepsi soda. They’ve experimented with clear, white, clear, red, and now they’re going blue with Pepsi blue.

  3. This effect sounds like “sundowning,” a malady that my 84-year-old father is suffering from. He’s reasonable and “normal” during the day but becomes paranoid, a serial liar, and unreasonably insulting around dinner time and into evening. We don’t know whether his behavior is early dementia or not, as he seems to be in his right mind, except for these outbursts. He has claimed himself that he’s angrier than he’s ever been and doesn’t know why.

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  9. My classroom recently had the lighting decreased by 33%. I am trying to get it changed back as my classroom receives no direct sunlight. Do you have any recommendations as to how much light is needed in a classroom to promote the positive health effects? The district is currently measuring in foot-candles. They have said that it’s too expensive to run the extra lighting. The lights are a fluorescent tube that is considered full spectrum. Can you give me an idea of the cost of 2 bulbs in every fixture vs 3 bulbs? I’d also be interested in receiving information on any other internet sites you recommend to help answer these questions. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide!

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  11. Great article ! Thanks for sharing this information. I didn’t have idea that natural light was so importan for thyroid function.

  12. Assisted living as it exists today emerged in the 1990s as an eldercare alternative on the continuum of care for people, for whom independent living is not appropriate but who do not need the 24-hour medical care provided by a nursing home and are too young to live in a retirement home. Assisted living is a philosophy of care and services promoting independence and dignity.”‘;*

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  13. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation
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  14. Hi Kes,
    If the difficulty is a username/password dilemma and you are not able to log in then I am not sure what’s wrong. I tested it a second ago and it seemed to be working fine. Could you check again and see if it’s ok now?

  15. I wrk in a nursing home facility and I’ve notice the older rarely hardly ever go outside is this y shortly after admission u see change in their awareness

  16. I am doing research for a residential property developer.We are UK based and experience short grey winter days. We use a large amount of glazing in our houses and want to promote the health benefits.

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