Having to stay at home during last spring’s lockdown as well as the new restrictions that more or less all of us have experienced in the last few months, highlighted something that often is underestimated – the importance of natural light for our psycho-physical wellbeing.
Overexposure to artificial light during daylight hours can cause insomnia as well as other psychological problems.
Given the extraordinary circumstances caused by this coronavirus pandemic, a higher number of factors are causing emotional and psychological issues in many people, compared to normal circumstances.
However, it appears that creating a regular pattern of light and darkness over the course of a 24 hour period helps health and wellbeing, especially in the most difficult moments.
The Lighting Research Center for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York surveyed more than 600 people who stayed at home during the Covid-19 emergency.
This is what they found out.
New York Lighting Research Center’s survey
The survey posed several questions to establish the effects of daily exposure of sunlight and artificial light.
Compared to people forced to live with artificial light, people who were exposed to natural light, at different degrees of intensity and filtered by curtains or blinds, reported:
- less trouble sleeping
- less depression and anxiety
- more positive emotions
- less fatigue and irritability
This shows that the quality of our sleep and mood improve considerably when we spend the majority of our time in a place that is lit by natural light.
Another important aspect to take into consideration is the amount of time spent outside.
People who spent between one and two hours outside every day reported feeling considerably less anxious, stressed and depressed and slept better compared to people spending less than 30 minutes outside each day.
The impact of natural light on our sleep
We now know that the majority of people don’t get enough natural light during the day and that this situation has worsened in the recent lockdowns that forced us to spend the majority of our time inside our homes.
Unfortunately, in addition to the lack of natural light during the day, we also need to add the increased exposure to artificial light at night as many people use electronic devices like smartphones and tablets in the evening or stay up late working on their computers.
The light projected by these devices triggers a reaction in the brain that tells your body it’s time to wake up, exactly when you should be getting ready to go to bed.
This is why it’s extremely important to maintain a constant cycle of light and darkness over a 24 hour period to improve our wellbeing. It will give us more energy and ability to focus during the day and will improve our sleep during the night.
Use the power of natural light
Being exposed to natural light and enjoying good sleep are essential for our wellbeing and even improve our immune system.
Here a few suggestions to make the best use of the power of natural light:
- During the day try to get as much natural light as you can, especially in the morning.
- If the sky is clear and the sun is up, walk or jog for about 30 minutes every morning at the same time. Morning light is more beneficial for our health.
- If you need to stay at home during the day, set up your workstation near a window. Open curtains or blinds to make sure as much light as possible can come in.
- If possible switch off any artificial lights, allowing your body to understand what time the sun sets.
Natural light is a precious ally to keep your mind and body in good shape because it helps your nervous system and improves your immune system.
Natural light and living spaces
The situation we experienced during the lockdown, as well as the continuing restrictions, helped us understand the importance of natural light in the environment where we live.
When you design work or living spaces, you always need to consider not only the quantity of natural light available but also its quality and how it is distributed.
Heat and light coming from the sun can also generate undesired overheating in a house, especially if the windows are badly positioned or if the window treatment is not suitable for the space.
There is no doubt that finding the perfect equilibrium between physical well being and comfort at home is not easy. Still, in trying to find the best possible solution, you will see how natural light improves your health and makes you more productive.
If your home is not designed to let a lot of natural light in, you can at least try to make the lighting you use more balanced and natural. A good choice here is curtains or blinds made of light fabrics that will allow in as much light as possible, even on a cloudy day.
On the other hand, if your house is overexposed to light, even at times when your body would usually require darkness, you could try installing 100% blackout blinds that are very easy to roll up during the day.
Another option could be Venetian blinds whose slats allow you to easily manage the intensity of the natural light.
We hope we have shown you how important natural light is at this particular moment, where unfortunately it is becoming increasingly difficult to spend a lot of time in the open air.