Exposure to ligth and circadian rhythms

Exposure to ocular light has important influences on human health and well-being through modulation of circadian rhythms and sleep, as well as neuroendocrine and cognitive functions. Recent research on the mechanisms of phototransduction in humans is revealing the fundamental role of exposure to light and dark cycles as a regulator of important physiological processes from the molecular to the behavioural level.

The imbalance in our circadian rhythm inhibits the generation of melatonin, which increases inflammation, deregulates metabolism and suppresses the immune system, all of which contribute to the development of multiple diseases.

The American scientists Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young, known as the discoverers of the body’s ‘internal clock’, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2017 for their discoveries of the molecular mechanisms that control circadian rhythm. Thanks in part to their work, it is now known that living beings carry an internal clock in their cells, synchronised with the 24-hour rotation of the Earth.

Ongoing clinical and epidemiological studies are revealing the negative consequences of incorrect exposure to light during the day, in many cases due to the incorrect use of artificial light. People in developed countries have a general tendency to be exposed to less light than necessary during the day and to an excessive amount at night, thus substantially reducing the day/night contrast to which our physiology is adapted.

This reality has probably been exacerbated in this year 2020, where the health emergency caused by COVID-19 has forced many millions of people in the world to stay in their homes for long periods of time, reducing exposure to natural light. Furthermore, there has been an exponential increase in the use of all kinds of screens (television, computer, tablets, smartphones, consoles, etc.), as a result of the increase in teleworking and domestic leisure.

Aware of the consequences of this inappropriate use of artificial light, users are driven to demand lighting systems that help maintain the balance of the key mechanisms for regulating light and darkness. In spite of this evidence, current lighting systems lack surveillance systems that allow the light evaluation of the environments in which people carry out their activity, as well as the implementation of lighting systems to correct abnormal situations.

In this context, at Insati we consider it very relevant to advance in our evidence-based knowledge about the best lighting conditions, trying to facilitate from technology new healthy lighting solutions that promote health and well-being. Fortunately, as a result of several decades of scientific advances, research-based recommendations are now possible.

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