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The health benefits of LED lighting

16th Jan 2013

We all know that saving energy is the buzzword of the day and, with the new LED lights that were introduced to the market in the last few years, saving money on our electric bills has certainly gotten a little bit easier.  But what if we told you that not only could the new LED bulbs that you put in your home save you money, they could save your life?  It’s a possibility that researchers are looking into, as scientists explore how LED lighting can help a person to maintain better sleep patterns and thus maintain their health.   The colors that LED lights produce are all dependent on the semiconductor material that is used to make their diodes.  This light is emitted at precise wavelengths and are referred to as ‘full spectrum lighting’ meaning that the full spectrum of different colors is produced.  It is because of this very fact that the possibility of their use in the medical/health field has surfaced.  Indeed research is now being conducted as to whether LED light is beneficial for the circadian rhythm of humans or what scientists refer to as our ‘biological clocks’ or ‘body clock’.   You see, our body clocks are influenced greatly by the sun and the light that it produces. For example, during the part of the day when the sun is at its highest in the sky, blue light that reaches our bodies stimulates us to be active and alert. (Yes, coffee helps but we’re talking about natural stimulation.)  As the day winds down the sun’s colors become ‘warmer’ and this triggers a release of melatonin, a hormone that is one of the precursors to sleep.   In many parts of the world where the sun doesn’t shine on a regular basis, and for people who don’t have the ability to go outside and get sun because of health problems or other reasons, many people suffer sleep problems because their circadian rhythm is thrown completely off.  Yes it’s hard to sleep when the sun is shining but, if you don’t get enough sun, it’s going to also be hard to sleep when it goes down.   In 2008 a study was performed to prove this very point.  A group of senior citizens with an average age of 85.5 was exposed to high levels of the specific colored LED light scientists believe humans need to create the energy generating and energy diminishing effects of the sun. In general, the subjects all reported better sleep, improvements in depression and less agitation than normal.  The consensus of the study? That LED lights are recommended for improving the sleep, and the health, of our aging population.   Scientists have since confirmed that humans have photoreceptors in the eyes that are sensitive to the blue light that affects our circadian rhythm and today there are several manufacturers that are working on LED lights that are ‘biological-specific’.  What this means is that they can be tuned to a specific individual’s blue light receptors and help their bodies to maintain a normal rhythm, with or without the help of the sun.   So if you have problems sleeping and you can’t get as much sun as you need keep your eyes open (literally) for new LED bulbs that are coming. Sometime soon these special bulbs will not only keep your home and life well-lit but will also help you sleep at night, even when they’re turned off.