Light Work Sleep, Repeat

FUTURE Designs explore the effects that light and sleep have on our wellness with a sleep experiment carried out over 24 hours, during the week of the longest day of the year

From 10am on Tuesday 19th June until 10am on Wednesday 20th June, lighting experts FUTURE Designs, will perform an experiment to test and analyse the effects of light on the circadian rhythms of two volunteers.

Led by their consultant sleep expert, Dr Neil Stanley, the experiment will take place at FUTURE Designs new technology hub in Clerkenwell.

The exercise will analyse and record how two areas lit to the extreme of the Kelvin band (cool versus warm light) can affect the human wake and sleep functions over 24 hours. The experiment will reveal the effects of tuneable white lighting on the human race and how, or if at all, ‘human centric’ lighting affects our body’s circadian rhythm in relation to feelings of wellbeing.

Two volunteers of similar age, height and weight will work and sleep under two distinctly different lighting tones. The technology hub will be divided in two spaces both facing on to the street where people will be invited to watch the experiment through the double height windows. However, the spaces will be lit differently – one under 6000 Kelvin cool blue light and the other under 2700 Kelvin warm yellow light. Both areas will have identical illuminance levels that will alter between working hours, rest and sleep – although the two identical areas will always be lit for 24 hours.

Light has powerful non-visual effect on our sleep, day time performance and mood. In order to be at our most productive we need to rely on higher-order cognitive processes, such as problem solving, reasoning, organising and planning. These processes are associated with the prefrontal cortex, and this part of the brain appears to be particularly sensitive to sleep deprivation. Although accidents and mistakes can have profound consequences, the psychological process that underlie them, however big or small, are very simple, a missed red light can result in a small shunt at the traffic lights or a nuclear disaster, all because you failed to react to a simple stimulus.

During a simulated working day, the volunteers will have their memory, reaction time and vigilance measured regularly, and they will be questioned about their mood and alertness. They will evaluate their sleep and their cognitive function in the morning and will be tested. In order to evaluate the effect of the lighting regime the volunteers will be kept as far as possible identical, they will eat the same things at the same time, their caffeine intake will be limited, their exposure to blue light from screens will be controlled and they will have the same bed and wake up times.

The results and conclusions of this experiment will be published in the form of a white paper.

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