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#16 – Circadian Lighting Performance & Well-being Impact in Office Space

 Impact On Health And Performance Of Circadian Lighting

From arc lamps to compact fluorescent lights, the world continues to search for more energy-efficient and cost-effective lighting products. LED bulbs now dominate the market because of their flexibility and practicality, far surpassing their predecessors. Despite giving off a bright light for lower energy consumption, not all LEDs are made the same. Some emit higher radiations, especially the blue portion of the light spectrum which is harmful to well-being when incorrectly and excessively used. Studies reveal that it can affect the body’s circadian rhythm, resulting in adverse health effects after prolonged exposure.

The solution is to use an adaptive lighting system that synchronizes with the circadian rhythm.


The circadian rhythm is the body’s 24-hour mechanism that impacts the behavioral, biological, and mental processes. It’s controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) which is a portion of the brain situated just above the optic nerves. It affects productivity, alertness, body temperature, sleep cycle, and even the digestive system.

Circadian lighting
Fig. 1. The circadian rhythm

Although the circadian rhythm is mainly regulated by the pineal gland and the SCN, environmental factors, specifically light intensity, affect the natural process. In the morning when there’s abundant light, it’s normal to feel energized; at night when there’s less light in the environment, most people will feel drowsy – this is the circadian rhythm at work.

While the body’s circadian rhythm responds to the presence of natural light, it does the same for artificial light sources. LED bulbs, as well as smartphones, computers, and TV screens are examples of artificial light sources that emit blue light.

As discussed, the human circadian rhythm depends on the input received by the retinal photoreceptors. These receptors work properly so long as they’re not exposed to light sources emitting a wavelength shorter than 450nm. The 450nm to 500nm wavelength interval is where the blue portion of the light spectrum is often found.

The usual roadway lighting emits around 5% blue-rich light; fluorescent sources emit around 20% to 30%. White LEDs, on the other hand, can emit as much as 50% blue light. This means prolonged exposure to commonly used LEDs raises health risks.

(Source: Open Sourced Workplace)

The presence of blue light during daytime is acceptable since it coincides with the body’s natural clock. However, excessive exposure to blue light at nighttime disrupts the circadian rhythm. A paper published by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) detailed the dangers associated with overexposure to blue-rich light sources, including sleep disorders, diabetes, depression, cancer, and other cardiovascular diseases.

While the world is moving toward the use of LEDs because of their greener energy consumption, there are significant health implications of misusing the technology. A report from the American Medical Association (AMA) Council on Science and Public Health also stated similar results, pointing out how the excessive amount of blue light emitted by some LEDs have adverse health effects.

Upgrading current office lighting setup with circadian lighting design is the recommended solution to take care of the circadian rhythm and mitigate the ill effects of too much exposure to uncontrolled blue light.


A circadian lighting system is designed to replicate the presence of natural light from daytime to nighttime. The color temperature, the angle of the light source, and the intensity of the brightness are all copied so that the lighting inside a room is in sync with the circadian system.

By dynamically tracking the sun’s movement, it’s possible to recreate the natural light outside the office. A properly installed circadian lighting system can bring several benefits than just a good night’s sleep. It can increase alertness, and concentration, boost the immune system, elevate mood, improve memory and cognitive function, and enhance metabolism.

Fig. 2. Typical spectral power distributions of commonly used light sources

Circadian lighting products emit bioactive light that helps regulate the circadian rhythm and improve overall productivity. This promise has businesses yearning for the installation of a circadian lighting system that can benefit the employees and the enterprise in the long run.

Circadian lighting products promote a healthy working environment that encourages employee engagement, productivity, and well-being by controlling the intensity of blue light emitted. Studies show that people in the workplace who are exposed to a low blue light source performs up to 25% better compared to those who are working under an uncontrollably bright light source. Luminaires not optimized for office use contribute to counterproductivity since they induce fatigue and headache.


Studies reveal that offices with ample natural light positively contribute to the well-being of employees. It’s not unusual to see why many people prefer to sit near windows where they can bask in the sunlight. In spaces with little presence of natural light, the best alternative is a dynamic artificial lighting that synchronizes with the circadian rhythm.

With all the health issues raised regarding the excessive use of blue-rich LEDs, engineers and interior designers have become more careful and selective in using existing lighting technologies. The proper use of circadian lighting system is now given more emphasis to better control blue light emissions.

A standard has been in place since 2003 for limiting the maximum luminance inside a room. This helps reduce the risk associated with both poor lighting conditions and excessive use of blue-rich LEDs.

Mixing cool, warm, and bright lights to imitate natural daylight intensity is the guiding principle for implementing circadian lighting systems. Color temperature is a primary indicator of the spectral content of emitted light, with higher CCT values indicating greater amounts of blue light emitted by the source. Using automated controls for dimming or extinguishing lights at night, limiting color temperature in an area to 3,000K, and managing outdoor lighting are some of the strategies professional lighting designers like Baseline use.

Businesses should consider investing in circadian lighting design to create a conducive environment that will encourage efficiency while reducing stress, work hazards, and absenteeism. This is helpful, especially to those who are on a night shift because they are the ones that have the highest risk of getting ill for going against their circadian rhythm.

Putting importance on the use of a circadian lighting system is challenging since many see this as an unnecessary expense. If companies want to benefit from circadian lighting products, the solution has to be initiated at the board-level to ensure the commitment of the whole organization, starting from the senior management to the ordinary employees.

Baseline Lighting Design Studio - Hermes Office, Hong Kong

If you find that productivity is going down and employees are often complaining about headaches, consider installing a circadian lighting system in the office. It won’t come cheap but it will surely benefit the business in the long run.

Baseline installs circadian lighting systems that mimic natural light settings to induce productivity and improve employee well-being. We implement a dynamic lighting solution that is effective, adaptive, and cost-efficient, benefitting both your business and the employees.

We have a huge portfolio of clients who continue to enjoy the advantages of our circadian lighting design. From hotels and restaurants to boutiques and office spaces, we are equipped with the knowledge and experience to make the lighting system of any establishment adaptive to the circadian rhythm. All these can be done without sacrificing the aesthetical and functional elements of the fixtures inside and outside the building.

Do you have questions or concerns regarding circadian lighting designs? Don’t hesitate to call us.


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