Light and Health
Humans have evolved for millions of years around the sun and it has become an essential part of our lives. More and more research shows that our health depends on it. It’s not always possible to get the exposure we need because of our working conditions or our geographical location on the globe. We are excited about the possibility of replicating some of the benefits of the real sun anywhere while simultaneously creating beautiful artwork through light with ATMOS.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects over 3 million Americans with a typical onset in the fall that continues through the winter months. Patients suffering from SAD can experience fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal.
- Women are 4 times more likely to suffer from SAD than men.
- SAD occurs more frequently in people who live far north or south of the equator. For example, 1 percent of people in Florida are affected by SAD but nearly 10 percent are affected in Alaska.
- People with a family history of varying forms of depression are more likely to develop SAD than those who do not have a family history.
- Younger adults are more likely to develop SAD than older adults.
Studies have determined that the primary way to treat SAD is by long exposures to bright lights at regular intervals. To be an effective treatment, users must sit under a light with a minimum brightness of 2,500 lux for 1-2 hours a day. The sun itself measures around 100,000 lux on a normal sunny day but in most artificially lit work environments, we typically only receive 100-500 lux from overhead lighting. Since ordinary lights just aren’t bright enough, there are specially designed lights for treating SAD that can produce 10,000 lux or more when measured from a distance of 1 foot.
Light exiting from lighting fixtures designed to treat SAD spreads out in all directions and as it spreads out, its intensity (lux) at any one particular spot decreases. The amount of lux that reaches you reduces by 1/4th every time the distance doubles. So a lighting fixture that measures 10,000 lux at 1 foot no longer provides the critical 2,500 lux if you move a little over 2 feet away.
Lux vs Distance
The only way to have a light fixture this close to us it to place it on our desk or right next to our chair, which can be intrusive and restrict our movements. In a shared work or living environment, these bright lights also causes glare for other people in the same environment.
Compare this with the energy from the sun, which also spreads out in all directions. Because sunlight travels such a long distance before it reaches Earth, the light no longer disperses but instead, travels in a straight path. If you measured the brightness of the sun hitting your roof and the brightness of the sun hitting the ground, you would get a nearly identical measurement.
This is why we are excited about ATMOS. It can be mounted overhead in the ceiling or a wall and cast artificial sunlight that, like real sunlight, travels in a straight path (is collimated) and diminishes much more slowly in brightness as it travels. ATMOS is able to maintain 2,500 lux at a distance of over 6 feet, which is significantly greater than traditional SAD lights, which can only maintain the same lux at 1-2 feet. If you tried to do this with a normal lightbulb, you’d need to start with 160,000 lux at 9 inches.
Glare, Coworkers, and Family members
Because ATMOS looks like a natural skylight with a distant sun, it becomes and coexists as a natural and beautiful part of the environment rather than a bright eye sore. Additionally, because all of the light is directed into one tight beam, it does not shine into the eyes of coworkers or other family members.
Workplace productivity and sleep
Surveys indicate nearly half of all workers do not have access to natural light in their work environment, yet numerous studies have shown that access to natural light in workplace environments improves performance. Not only does access to natural light increase workers’ productivity, it also enhances the sleeping patterns of workers. In one study, workers with windows slept an average of 46 minutes longer per night than workers without windows.
Besides SAD, which affects millions of people, other studies have shown that exposure to too much blue light at night can be detrimental to the health of nearly everyone. Blue light emitted from our TVs, smartphones, and even our lighting fixtures in the evening might be affecting our sleep patterns and throwing off our circadian rhythms. Worse, some research shows it may be a catalyst in some forms of cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
ATMOS can automatically change colors throughout the day. For example, in the evening, a natural sunset shows orange, red, and yellow.
If you think you might suffer from SAD, contact your doctor and see if light treatment might be helpful in treating it. If so, you might consider using ATMOS to provide artificial sunlight any time of year in any location. Besides providing needed light in our lives, ATMOS has endless power to turn drab depressing environments into beautiful places to live and work.