New ALA program looks to bring circadian lighting to market

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The LHRC developed a circadian lighting prototype for the Swedish Energy Agency, which included modes for day, downlight only and night.

The research has spoken: The better we can train our day/night cycles — our circadian rhythms — and give our bodies more light during the day and less at night, the more healthy and well rested we will be.

Looking to put that research into action, the American Lighting Association has debuted a new program called “Better Light, Better Sleep” through a partnership with the Light and Health Research Center (LHRC) at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York. Through this program, almost 20 manufacturers of fixtures and bulbs and a retailer — all ALA members — will work with LHRC researchers to develop products that will deliver the right amount of light at the right time.

Most people start their days at home and then are back at home at the end of the day, and this is where lighting can have a real impact, said Terry McGowan, director of engineering, ALA.

“If you can control that period of time in the morning and evening, you have a very good chance of having effective circadian rhythm no matter what happens to you the rest of the day,” McGowan said. “Residential lighting is pretty powerful.”

All organisms — with the possible exception of those living on the ocean floor — have different ways of acting by day and by night, said Jennifer Brons, LHRC’s research program director. And the health benefits are plentiful, including reducing sleeplessness, depression and more.

After a virtual group kick-off meeting, LHRC researchers planned to work individually with companies on their designs, including offering expertise, evaluating drawings and testing measurements such as color and light output.

To start, LHRC will ask manufacturers what areas of the home they want to target — the kitchen, for example, or the bathroom or living room, said Brons. From there, they can examine what the setting is, how close the person is to that particular light source and more.

“We’re applying light to real environments,” Brons said.

And while the color temperature of light can certainly be discussed and included, it’s not necessary —which usually comes as a surprise, Brons added. “We work with just static white light,” she said. “You don’t need color-changing bulbs for this to work.”

For lighting to affect one’s circadian rhythm, the light has to get into the eye, said McGowan. For example, a downlight puts light on the desk or floor,  not into the eyes, he added. But table lamps, hanging fixtures, sconces and other types of fixtures will be able to provide that light.

These products could possibly have bright light levels during the day, a dim mode for the evening and then an off mode for night. This could be controlled by a built-in timer or through smart controls, Brons said.

Participating company Lamps Plus “wants to be involved in this effort as we increasingly see research about the interaction of lighting and health,” said Clark Linstone, president and COO. “We want to be able to inform and provide solutions for our customers.”

This will be Lamps Plus’ first direct effort in creating these types of products, Linstone said. Lamps Plus aims to create both new designs through this program, as well as use existing ones.

Linstone expects to have prototypes early next year and then roll out products midyear. And while few customers are asking for circadian lighting now, “we plan to provide educational material in store and via our website to inform our customers,” he said. In addition, “we also look forward to many vendors creating these products for us to sell as well.”

It’s an opportunity to make really attractive lighting that addresses circadian rhythms, Brons said, and she welcomes the effort wholeheartedly.

She said she recently sent someone a long list of items to buy and instructions on how to piece together the right lighting for his mother, who has Alzheimer’s. “I would love to just send him a list of manufacturers with these types of products,” which will have both style and the right amount of light, she said. Through this program, one imagines that day will soon come.

See also:

How the right light can promote good health

Mood maker



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