Why Is Lighting So Important In Composition, Design And For Our Sleep?
Last night I decided to take a drive over the Whole Foods to grab a quick dinner and kombucha with my wife and son. I have noticed the last several nights we have gone for a drive my wife was commenting about the architecture she liked around in Phoenix and Scottsdale. This got me thinking- “Hey Kristen (my wife) have you noticed there is something in common about all the buildings you have been commenting on? She paused, “no, what?” I replied, “Well, the last several nights we have been out driving, all the buildings you seem to like have one of a kind lighting structures related to them.” “Oh that’s pretty interesting” she said, “I guess I didn’t notice that!” So this really made me think about this concept and how I could relate a lesson to it for all of you. What is it about light that draws us in to want to learn more?
Look at any business, storefront, unique home, or interior design you love. Even designs you love as you browse social media. Light is the one part of design that is so subtle but actually is the master that ties everything together. In my book, “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” we dive deep into how we use light to our advantage in our own interior design, as well as how to best showcase different types of art.
Generally, anyone would be able to recognize that light is important in order for us to be able to see, that is the reason we turn the light on to see after all. In what other ways does light affect us? Are you familiar with something called the circadian rhythm? The circadian rhythm is the internal clock of our body. It is programmed to be awake during the day, when the sun is shining, and asleep when the sun is down. We utilize light to create vitamin D, a vitamin so important it is now actually considered to act more like a hormone. A deficiency in vitamin D is tied to so many diseases and here in the Phoenix area, the sun gets so hot in the summer, people are often indoors for long periods of the seasons. This was a similar scenario in New England where I grew up too. When we have a lack of sun, or in this case light, our body, and particularly our hormones, go haywire.
The Body Clock
This is something that I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM school we actually learn the two hour windows when each organ is functioning best. We actually can utilize this as a diagnostic tool for our patients. For example, if I learn that someone is having a hard time sleeping between the hours of 1AM-3AM, that is a sign to me that something is up with their liver. In TCM, anger, frustration and stress take a toll on the function of the liver and it shows up in our diagnostics long before anything would show up in a blood test. 1AM-3AM is the optimal time for your liver to recover, therefore if you are awake and allowing light into your eyes by turning the light on, looking at your phone, watching television, etc.,, you are actually creating an even more sluggishness for your liver. This correlates with the circadian rhythm and light, because we should actually be asleep at this time. This is why a poor night’s sleep, or a long night out can result in things like slightly blurred vision, headaches at the side or top of the head and pain behind the eyes.
Light & Hormones
Are you familiar with the fact that staring at a computer screen, television screen or phone screen can actually inhibit your ability to sleep? That is because this is blue light, similar to the blue light that we come in contact with from the sun. Notice on the color wheel what happens when we look at the color that is across from blue? The color is actually orange. Now here is the kicker. What color are the glasses that refract blue light? They tend to be tinted orange. If we go back into history when man sat by a campfire before bed, before the age of screens. What color was the small amount of light we would use to light up the darkness? We would use fire. What color is fire? Red, orange, yellow- not blue. Not to mention, these fires were very small and used for other purposes like warmth (the little bit of yang in the time of yin if you will). My point here is that lighting draws our attention, it attracts us and it helps us, yet too much of it can be harmful.
Lighting In Composition
When we look at lighting in composition, we would notice that the amount of white exposure or brightness in a composition needs to be used sparingly. This is because we need it to highlight our composition properly. Similarly, the same goes for absolute black or dark exposure. We need a balance between the two (between yin and yang) in order to create a composition that draws the viewer in and the same goes for your room design. From artistic composition to your ability to sleep to the amount of light needed in interior design, the amount of light you use makes a very big difference and should only be enough to draw you in. Excessive light or dark will only wash out your design.
So What Can We Learn From This?
So as for my wife commenting on the buildings she liked, let me finish the story. She was drawn to the buildings that had very minimalist lighting. We were driving around at night and therefore the lighting drew us in instantly. The amount of light used did not take up much space like the Las Vegas strip by any means. It was simple lighting on the corner of the building or a splash of color lining the sign made all the difference for her to say, “wow that building looks really pretty, that place must be really nice.” Next time you go for a drive at night around the city, ask yourself what you notice. Look at the upscale apartments, the office buildings, how do they interact with one another? It doesn’t take much to make your room look great, but you need to be selective and know where and how to use it to make it advantageous. And for your health? The more you follow the cycles of day and night, the more your body is going to thank you.
Curious to learn more about this? Check out my book “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” Just click below: