By Justin Schwartz, CEO of SAGE AV
We all have an ‘inner clock’ that our body uses to regulate itself. This process of adjusting to the time of day is called the circadian rhythm, and it involves a whole lot more than simply remembering to go to sleep every night. The circadian rhythm is a biological process that helps our bodies naturally adapt to the 24-hour-day cycle, letting us know when to wake up, eat, sleep, etc. Disruption of these natural rhythms can lead to health problems, weaken our immune systems and increase our risk of disease.
Your Body—Driven by Light
Researchers Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael Young discovered the secrets of how the body does this, for which they received the 2017 Nobel Prize. By looking at fruit flies, they were able to understand how a specific gene makes the circadian rhythm tick. They found that the “circadian gene” encodes a protein that gradually increases on the cells towards the end of the day, and then starts to decrease at daytime. It turns out that other plants, animals, and humans all use this same basic principle to regulate themselves. This means the cells in your body are working on a molecular level to make a record of the daily life-cycle based on available external cues, primarily driven by light.
Sync Up With the Sun
Because we face so much artificial light and spend more and more time indoors these days, it’s easy for our body to get confused, ultimately leading to us to not optimally function. Studies have shown that adjusting the amount and type of interior light in a home can help synchronize and stabilize the body’s internal bio-clock. Excitingly, technology has finally caught up with the circadian rhythm, and advances in smart home automation now make it possible to better regulate circadian rhythms indoors.
Healthy, Smart Lighting Options
Lighting manufacturers now have the ability to create a light source that works with your circadian rhythm. Saffron makes a bulb named the Drift, which has a sunlight and moonlight mode. Notwithstanding the fact they appear to be more focused on brightness levels then color temperature, the sunlight mode will gradually dim towards the evening, and the moonlight mode emits a small amount of light.
But, there’s more. Specialized smart home lighting solutions can now be customized accurately depending on your body clock and are able to adjust to a regular rhythm. It’s not as simple as having the lights go on or off at the right time or even adjusting lighting levels though. The temperature of the light is just as important as our bodies are sensitive to it.
Through their strong marketing, one may be more familiar with the Philips Hue. This product is a little more sophisticated in that it mimics sunlight by adjusting the temperature and color of the light from sunrise to sunset. The lighting can either be controlled manually or through an app called Sleep Cycle. Although the temperature range is slightly limited compared to others, some customers may find the price point more palatable. The lights created by Lighting Science are even more advanced and contains several different light bulbs that mimic sunlight, according to the time of day. In fact, this light is used by NASA in space applications for astronauts.
Another company leading the way into natural-light simulations is Ketra Lighting (recently acquired by Lutron). In my opinion, they have developed the most advanced lighting system. Ketra LEDs dynamically shift throughout the day, providing the full range of sunlight, crisp and bright during the day then soft and warm at night. Their lights appear to provide the wellness benefits of Natural Light indoors, synchronizing their circadian rhythms to support better health and rest. With Ketra’s tunable lighting, you can even program the lighting to imitate the intensity, brightness, and temperatures of daylight of your geographic region. They also do a fantastic job of recreating various color temperatures, have the ability to add vibrancy to colors and have an excellent dimming range.
Ultimately, this new, circadian method of smart home controlled lighting has shown to promote overall wellness, improve mood, productivity, and sleep. Although much work and research are still to be done, innovations in lighting and controls are continuing to advance our daily experiences. I don’t think it will be long before this technology makes its way into every home.