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        Harnessing Sunshine: Wellness and Human-Centric Lighting
        It’s a number that only went up with the onset of a global pandemic: The modern human spends more than 90% of their time indoors. That runs counter to our evolution — and it means that we’re usually living and working in artificial light. Here’s how to rectify that lack of natural luminosity and mimic the cycles of the sun.
        June 14

        A YouGov report referenced by USA Today provided a startling stat: While most people in Western countries estimated that they spent two-thirds of their lives indoors — whether in the office, at home, behind the wheel, wherever — that guess was off.

        The actual number was much closer to 90%.

        What’s even more worrisome? That survey was conducted in 2018 — two years prior to the first COVID lockdowns in the West. That means that the number that had been referenced regularly in “time-spent-inside-studies” might actually be on the low side. In fact, in North America, that figure is now approaching 93%. And that, of course, means that our exposure to natural daylight is profoundly limited.

        Understanding Our Relationship to Light

        Light and its varying color temperatures are directly related to a hormone called melatonin, “a neurotransmitter-like substance that plays a vital role in regulating circadian rhythms, which in turn control sleeping patterns, hormone release and body temperature, among many other human functions,” explained here by Livestrong. As noted in this article from Harvard, light triggers the release of melatonin in the human body, which can interfere with a person’s natural cycles of resting and wakefulness. The Harvard piece narrows on blue light as disruptive to sleep, a finding that’s led to the development of smartphone display modes that trend warmer toward dusk.

        One answer to this preponderance of blue that’s often found in artificial sources is the tunable LED blub and its ability to change color temperature throughout the day, matching what’s called our “circadian rhythm.” While the impact of tunable artificial light on the sleep/wake cycle isn’t a precise science (yet), a growing number of respected experts in a variety of fields are studying the concept. The results are extremely promising: As Brian Stacy notes for the design and engineering collective Arup, there’s a growing belief among his colleagues that the benefits of circadian lighting are both physical and psychological as color temperatures shift to mirror natural daylight. That shift would begin with warmer temps in the morning that drift into the blue spectrum at midday – with the effect, hopefully, of sharpening the senses as would a bright sun in a clear blue sky — then warming again into twilight.

        The Solutions

        So what’s a homeowner to do? Proper windows come to mind immediately, but not everyone has the situation, space, or private location that affords the luxury of living in an all-glass home (apologies to Philip Johnson). While the right window treatments (including automated shading) can be extraordinarily helpful in coordinating a lighting package, the hard truth is that humans still need illumination after sunset, and often before sunrise.

        Tunable LED lighting — and its ability to respond not only to the time of day, but also to the actual light that exists in nature — is an answer. One can find those solutions as part of the Crestron Home® OS. Crestron’s Circadian Rhythm feature creates a smooth curve of color temperature changes that align with natural sunlight, yet provide a warm, glowing effect in the evening that’s devoid of the blue light that likely suppresses melatonin. (Part of the package includes a “Warm Dim” feature — think of slowly fading firelight for evening illumination.)

        Working with a Crestron integrator, a homeowner (and his or her lighting designer, if desired), can quickly move through a residence and program each “zone” of lighting — or automate the area to connect with Crestron SolarSync® light sensor, which utilizes an outdoor sensor to drive the fixtures so they mimic the actual minute-by-minute sunlight color temperature. A wide palette of color and brightness preferences are available, as are fixtures and accessories from a broad range of Crestron’s luxury partners.

        A lighting solution that mimics the ebb and flow of daylight needn’t fill every fixture, though — these tunable LEDs work best in ambient lighting applications in rooms where they make sense. Accent lighting that highlights an artwork or a textured wall, lighting that traces architectural features need not follow the sun — and rooms such as half-baths or home cinemas don’t require this specific functionality. But when used judiciously in areas of the home that see the most use and occupancy, tunable lighting is an integral part of a wellness package that dramatically improves the 90-plus-pecentage of time we spend inside.

        Interested in the Crestron Home platform and its tunable lighting solutions?

         

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