Circadian rhythms are those physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle primarily related to our internal body clocks.   It is our brain’s master body clock that produces circadian rhythms. These rhythms adjust bodily functions as they relate to sunlight starting at sunrise and lasting through the darkness of sunset.   

Paying attention to our circadian rhythms is important because both sleep and eating patterns of humans, as well as animals, are intimately related to these rhythms.  Likewise, so is the production of our hormones, cells and other essential biological activities. Keep them imbalanced too often or for extended periods of time and we begin to wreak havoc with our health in countless ways. 

According to Russell Foster, Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, “Short-term circadian rhythm disruption can have a big negative impact on memory, problem solving, emotional responses and attention.”   Notably he adds, “Years of night-shift work has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, infection, type 2 diabetes and obesity.  We ignore circadian rhythms at our own peril.”

While we might believe we’re doing fine when we’re burning the proverbial candle at both ends, this is a case where we cannot beat Mother Nature. But some companies are trying to find ways to work with her and adapt things like office lighting for the betterment of employee health.

Thanks to advanced scientific research and development teams, companies like Energy Focus out of Solon, Ohio, are offering businesses, schools, universities and even US Naval ships a groundbreaking color tuning LED platform that allows users to control the color of lighting in commercial settings.  The retrofit lighting developed by Energy Focus has the capability of making lights bluer in the morning to suppress melatonin production and thereby help employees boost awakeness and promote alertness. The lighting can also then be set to produce redder tone as the day progresses later in the afternoon to allow melatonin production which leads to calmer, more restful mood after the workday is completed.  

Considering the fact that the benefits of natural light and light therapy for moods is well established, and that far too many working adults and children in school settings are not getting sufficient sunlight, let’s hope more office and school settings begin to adopt these lighting advancements. In the meantime, make sure you’re getting enough and proper sunlight throughout the day (avoiding high sun between 11:00 am – 3:00 pm).  

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