LED lighting and its effects on human health

Man-made light sources have made activity possible when natural light is not available.  These man-made lights have a different impact on our health than natural light, depending upon the intensity of light, flickering and the spectrum of the light.

Sunlight has varying spectrums of light throughout the day. The spectrum is blue during the day and turns red at night. Exposure to certain wavelengths of light is necessary for our bodies to function properly and this is why some sun exposure is vital for health.

LED is a unique technology that can take advantage of the properties of light to enable us to create any light spectrum.  In this way, we can build lighting systems that improve our health. There is evidence of the influence of blue light on our mood and circadian rhythms. Some indications LED lighting can help to improve mood and performance in the workplace, lower staff turnover and improve attention.

Positive Effects

  1. Less headaches

Fluorescent bulbs are notorious for flickering. For those who suffer from headaches and migraines, this flickering can have devastating effects. LED lights also flicker even though this is not always apparent to the eye. However, the flickering of LED lights is being reduced as the technology improves. Those that have reduced flickering help to prevent headaches.

  1. Increased concentration and productivity

The cells in our eyes respond to blue light. The brain receives the signal to stop producing melatonin. You stay wide awake as a result.  When LED’s are used in a learning environment, attention span and concentration seems to be heightened, leading to better performance. Organizations using LED lighting in offices have noticed increased productivity.

  1. Improved mood

Spending time in the natural light outdoors can help to reduce stress and improve mood. LED lighting has been associated with decreased anxiety and stress indoors.

Negative effects

White light emitting LEDs are made using several methods used, some of which result in a spectrum of light with a strong blue component. The types of phosphors used in these methods are evolving which means the blue element is decreasing.

Use of excess blue light can cause health problems such as

  • Eye damage
  • Hormone imbalance
  • reduced melatonin production

We need melatonin for sleep. A lack of melatonin can affect the quality of our sleep.   This is why using cold, bright white lights before bedtime is not advisable.

The main problem with LEDs is that they emit blue wavelengths, have very little red in them and virtually no infrared. Some health experts fear that an excess of blue light without the red and infrared may not only be harmful to your eyes and sleep but your overall health too because infrared is the wavelength required for regeneration and repair.

The alternative but more expensive methods of making LED lights – using at least three LEDs of different colors – green, red and blue or using an ultraviolet LED and three phosphors do allow for the amount of blue light to be controlled.

A new generation of LED lighting

There’s a wide range of LED lights available today, and the technology is improving all the time. The new generation of LED lighting is likely to have zero flickering, control emission of blue light and adapt spectrum to the time of day and our activity.

Blue light is not good or bad, and avoiding it is not the answer. We need to understand more about how it affects our circadian rhythms so that we know more about how to use it to our advantage.

The subject of the effect of LED lights on our health is still controversial, although there is no question about their energy efficiency.  Hopefully, any questions as to the health benefits get sorted out as the technology improves.