The best light for relaxation in your spa environment includes natural light and possibly blue light, according to research. Here’s how light impacts wellbeing and the spa experience.
Light impacts human health and wellbeing in various ways. Light is critical to our daily activities and wellbeing, impacting health and human function by enabling performance of visual tasks, controlling the body’s circadian system, affecting mood and perception, and facilitating direct absorption for critical chemical reactions within the body (Source: Impact of Light on Outcomes in Healthcare Settings).
The invention of the electric light bulb forever changed the way humans construct our daily lives and had many positive effects, like allowing us to extend the day and social activities after sundown and drastically reducing the risk of house fires. But there were downsides also, that include a reduced reliance on and appreciation for natural light.
Natural light can have measurable health benefits
Natural light is the preferred light source for most people. A study examining the impact of natural light on staff satisfaction in healthcare settings found that 43% rated increased natural light as having a very positive impact on their work life, and 27% rated it as having a positive impact. And, in another survey by Future Workplace, employees ranked “access to natural light and views of the outdoors” as their number one desire for a workplace environment.
Direct exposure (not through a window) to natural light boosts absorption of vitamin D, a critical nutrient for preventing bone loss, and reduces the risk of heart disease, weight gain, and various cancers. Exposure to natural light also helps reduce the risk of seasonal depression when days get shorter in fall and winter and improves sleep quality (even through glass).
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that workers in environments with windows had significantly more light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night during the workweek than workers in environments without windows. Workers without windows reported more sleep disturbances and poorer sleep quality.
More research has found that length of stay was shorter for hospital patients whose beds were near windows than for those near doors, and workers who were exposed to natural light experienced an 84% drop in issues such as headaches, eyestrain, and blurred vision. Among hospital patients undergoing spinal surgeries, those on the bright side of a hospital unit were exposed to 46% higher-intensity sunlight on average than those on the dim side. The study found that patients on the bright side experienced less perceived stress and took less analgesic medication per hour than those on the dim side.
The color of relaxation
None of this means that artificial light does not have its place. Without it, we’d spend a lot more time in the dark and, in fact, there’s evidence to suggest forms of light therapy with artificial light can help treat depression and slow the process of dementia. But we can’t just go out and buy any old light bulb when creating an environment designed for relaxation and stress relief.
If you’re looking for relaxing light color, you might consider blue. An interesting 2017 study found that blue speeds up the relaxation process after acute psychosocial stress to up to three times faster than conventional white lighting. Inc.com reports that separate research has found subjects report feeling relaxed more quickly in blue lighting, and that “some municipalities are even experimenting with using blue lighting on train platforms to calm the agitated and reduce the risk of suicide.”
More factors to consider include the intensity and direction of the light.
When planning the lighting design of you spa environment, or any other environment where the primary purpose is to create a relaxing atmosphere and promote wellbeing, one might consider incorporating blue light where appropriate. But natural light, is possible, is a must.
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