Understanding the Health Aspects of Lighting

The OLEDs World Summit works to bring you the latest advancements and applications in the lighting and display sectors.  New for the 2016 agenda is the Understanding Health Aspects of Lighting session. This session will feature two presentations by Mariana Figuerio of Lighting Research Center and Stan Walercyzk of Lighting Wizards. These presentations will explore the role light can play in over all health. Smithers Apex recently spoke with Mariana and Stan to gain some insights ahead of their presentations. 

Smithers Apex: How did you first become involved with OLEDs/OLEDs research? What interested you the most about OLEDs?  

Mariana: I first became involved with OLED research several years ago, through my work with Dr. Nadarajah Narendran, Director of Research at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the ASSIST program. The thin, flexible structure of OLED panels provides new opportunities for innovative lighting products, and steady OLED efficiency improvements are expected to make OLEDs a viable, cost-competitive option for many lighting applications within the next five years.

Stan: I have been tracking OLED developments for about five years, mainly how to see how the compare with LEDs and other SSL technologies, and what type of applications each type of SSL may be best at.

Smithers Apex: How can lighting affect one’s health?  Is there a specific type of lighting that is more impactful on health?

Mariana: Robust daily patterns of light and dark synchronize the human circadian clock to local sunrise and sunset. Disruption of this 24-hour rhythm of light and dark affects every one of our biological systems from DNA repair in single cells to melatonin production by the pineal gland in the brain. Circadian disruption is most obviously linked with disruption of the sleep-wake cycle—feeling sleepy during the day and experiencing sleep problems such as insomnia at night—but is also linked with increased risk for diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Recent research has shown that poor sleep may directly impact the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and conversely, healthy sleep may prevent or slow progression of the disease. Beyond the many health benefits of circadian entrainment, light also has an acute alerting effect, like a cup of coffee. Light can be “prescribed” in terms of quantity, spectrum, duration, and timing. For more information visit http://www.lrc.rpi.edu/programs/lightHealth/index.asp

Stan: The nonvisual or biologic part of the visual system can affect circadian rhythm (24 hour body clock), short and long term alertness, mood, productivity – learning, sleep and general wellbeing. Proper dosing of intensity, spectrum and duration of light at specific times of the time for various people doing various tasks is important.

Smithers Apex: Can you share with us your best tips for improving our health with light?  For example is there a recommending amount of light we should get? 

Mariana: Here are my top tips: 

  • The evidence suggests that high circadian stimulation during daytime waking hours can likely be achieved by approximately 300 lux at the cornea of a 6500 K (cool-white) light source. But even warmer color light sources (3000 K) can provide good circadian stimulation during the daytime if they provide at least 400 lux at the cornea.
  • A morning walk outside after sunrise on a sunny or even slightly overcast day can also provide high circadian stimulation.
  • During evening waking hours, the lighting system should provide no more than 30 lux at the cornea of a 2700 K (warm-white) light source to promote restful sleep at night.
  • Don’t forget to turn off your self-luminous displays (tablet, laptop, etc.) at least 2 hours prior to your desired bedtime.
  • I also recommend our new website “Lighting Patterns for Healthy Buildings” - a guide to lighting for health and wellbeing. http://lightingpatternsforhealthybuildings.org

Stan: Generally a good intensity of 460 – 480 nanometer of light is good most of the day, but should be avoided one to two hours before going to bed and during the night. There does not seem to be a blue light hazard for interior light, and there does not seem to be sufficient evidence showing benefits of red light.

Smithers Apex: Can you share with us one example of how light has impacted the health of someone? 

Mariana: Lighting tailored to the needs of an individual can improve sleep and reduce depression and agitation in persons with Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier this year, we installed tailored lighting at several long-term care facilities throughout the U.S., including the MorningView Assisted Living Center in South Bend, Indiana. Staff members at MorningView have already seen improvements from the new lighting.

“Residents are now sleeping through the night. We have also seen a vast improvement in their mood,” said Dr. Suhayl Nasr, Psychiatry Medical Director of Beacon Health System, who introduced the lighting project to MorningView Assisted Living Center. The tailored light treatment provides cool, high light levels for high circadian stimulation during the daytime, delivering a circadian stimulus (CS) of 0.4. A CS of 0.4 translates to approximately 2000 lux at the cornea of 25,000 K (bluish white) light, similar to a blue sky on a clear day.

 Results show that the tailored light treatment significantly improved sleep, significantly reduced depression, and significantly reduced agitation in Alzheimer’s patients. Both depression and agitation scores remained significantly lower after removal of the intervention, suggesting a beneficial carryover effect of the light. Similar results have been shown when using additional lighting delivering a CS of 0.3 (approximately 400 lux of a 9000 K light source) to residents living at home.

 Among the many positive outcomes of this project is the fact that the lighting principles and technologies utilized in these long-term care facilities can be transferred to benefit other populations: newborns in the NICU, students in schools, office workers, and eventually, the general public in their own homes.

Stan: Tunable (dimming and Kelvin changing ) lighting can allow hospital patients to fall asleep sooner, sleep better, recover faster and leave the hospital sooner. 

Smithers Apex: What excites you the most about the OLEDs World Summit 2016?

Mariana:The thin, flexible structure of OLED panels provides new opportunities for innovative applications in the field of light and health. Today, many people think of light as just part of a building. In the future, light will be more personalized and customizable, with the goal of improving human health and wellbeing. OLEDs may be the ideal technology to provide this completely personalized and customizable user experience. I look forward to discussing these new possibilities with other thought leaders at the OLEDs World Summit.

Stan: I'm excited to hear about the advantages of OLEDs over LEDs.