Since the development of the light bulb 142 years ago, human’s natural exposure to light has changed. In an increasingly digital world, more and more people are working in offices, in front of computer screens. In 2018 it was estimated that Brits spend 90% of their time inside, which equates to a whopping 22 hours a day. Fast forward to a world ‘post pandemic’, where we are living under more artificial light than ever before, even satellites are detecting yearly increases of artificial light from space! Add to that the fact that in Britain our average daily sunshine is 4 hours, just 18% a day, and the numbers can feel a little depressing. Therefore the opportunity to experience a truly natural circadian rhythm, and provide that opportunity for newborns, can feel daunting. However, it’s not impossible.
Image by Tima Miroshnichenko via Pexels.
Circadian Rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates our sleep–wake cycle and coordinates our mental and physical systems. Babies are born with a very weak sleep-wake rhythm that is connected to the mother. We know that circadian rhythm is mostly impacted by natural sunlight (or lack of), but if babies are born without a circadian rhythm, could artificial LED help to develop their sleep-wake cycle? Or does it hurt them?
Image by Georgia Maciel via Pexels.
Infants depend upon exposure to daily cycles of natural light to define their sense of day and night. With thin eye-lids and ultra-clear corneas, infants’ eyes are even more sensitive to light than adults. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to recreate a ‘perfect’ natural circadian rhythm for your baby, as feeding or changing nappies in night time darkness is most likely not an option, and neither is keeping them outdoors in as much sunlight as possible. Like children and adults, babies will be under artificial light at some point in their development, starting the moment that they enter the delivery room!
Most artificial LED lights are not natural. Firstly, most artificial lights do not match the colour spectrum of natural sunlight, producing too much blue light (associated with increased risk of eye disease), and not enough red light (associated with cell regeneration and healing). Secondly, almost all artificial light has some level of ‘flickering’, not always visible by the naked eye, but if it’s there then our brain has to process it, which can cause migraines, poor mental health and risk of developing seizures.
Image by Dominika Roseclay via Pexels
We should all be trying to spend as much time under natural sunlight as possible, but in babies it is even more important than ever. And although it is impossible to keep them away from any kind of artificial light, it is possible to invest in LED lighting that aids natural development while reducing the chance of negatively impacting physical and mental health. You can do this by:
Looking for lighting that is Full Spectrum. Artificial lighting that matches the colour spectrum of natural lighting is best, as some blue wavelengths are good for us. Steer clear of companies claiming to have no blue light, as that’s bad too!
If the lighting that you’re looking to buy includes increased levels of red light (again, close to natural sunlight)- even better.
Choose ‘Flicker Free’ or ‘Eye Kind’ means that the light has little to no flickering, therefore avoiding causing damage to eye health.
If an artificial light is ‘circadian friendly’, that’s a plus as it most likely has a colour spectrum close to natural sunlight, or might list that its CRI is above at least 93 (sunlight has CRI 100).
If you do need to have light on in the evening and at night, keeping it dim will help a newborn’s development. Equally, keeping indoor lighting brightness increased during the day will give the ‘daylight’ effect. This sounds obvious, but it’s often forgotten.
A recent trend is lighting that claims to ‘mimic the sun’, by changing the colour temperature throughout the day with warm orange in morning, bright white during ‘daylight hours’ and warm orange again in the evening. This is a great idea in theory, but completely pointless if it is over stimulating and flickering- it’s just a colour changing lightbulb.
To summarise, it is possible that LED lighting can have a negative impact on a newborn baby’s developing health, similarly to how artificial lighting can impact children and adults. Investing in health lighting that has a close colour spectrum to natural sunlight, with no flickering, is the best way to truly mimic sunlight and aid the development of a healthy circadian rhythm. Following a similar pattern of lighting to sunlight when inside (such as dim morning and evening and bright during the day) could help.
Click here to view a range of circadian friendly and flicker free lighting products from RAY Lighting.