Lightbulbs Can Transform Your Health

Ideal for cave-dwelling office workers

Jul 30, 2014
Outside Magazine

As far as artificial light goes—if you want the biological rhythm of your dreams, blue is best.    Drew Coffman/Flickr

Unless your workplace is the great outdoors, chances are your office lighting isn't spectacular—and that's not great for your well-being. But researchers have come to the rescue, determining that a specific kind of artificial light can help keep your biological rhythms correctly synchronized—and they've successfully tested it in the most extreme real-world conditions.

Scientists know that white light enriched with blue wavelengths effectively helps synchronize the body's biological clock, which is hugely influential on things like memory, cardiovascular function, and sleep quality. But the lighting has never been properly tested under real conditions. Cue the Concordia international polar research station, located on the Antarctic Plateau. Researchers living there go through nine weeks of no daylight during the polar winter, making them probably the world's best test subjects for this promising light.

The Antarctic researchers maintained their day-to-day habits, changing only the kind of lighting they used to light up rooms, switching lighting types each week. After the nine weeks were over, the scientists concluded that during "blue" weeks, the Antarctic subjects had better sleep, reaction times, and motivation—plus absolutely no disturbance to their circadian rhythms. Those positive effects remained the same from the first "blue" week to the last, so the benefits seem to stay strong over time.

That means bringing this kind of lighting to any poorly lit environment could effectively keep biological clocks running as they should. It's as simple as changing the type of lightbulb you use—no special sessions of exposure required. The study's authors concluded, "These results could quickly lead to practical applications." Better start lobbying to replace those hellish fluorescent lights, stat.