Optimizing your life may be as easy as changing your lightbulbs. Read on to find out how you can make the important things in life—from falling asleep to falling in love—even better.
Light and sleep are inextricably linked. Our body clocks evolved to wake us at first light and send us to sleep when the sky grows dark. But electricity upended that scheme, and these days very few of us head to bed at sundown—a fact that’s messing up our circadian rhythms. But you can improve your sleep with two very easy tricks. First, cut down your exposure to blue light (the kind that comes from TVs, computers, and phones) in the hour before you lie down. Next, switch the bulbs in your bedroom or night-lights to red or pink; studies have found that these colors work with your body to help keep you asleep.
Sometimes, less is more. Light levels in most American workplaces are twice as bright as the levels recommended by health and safety experts. This excess light can actually create a glare and make things harder to see. It’s also not great for our eyes or our minds and can cause headaches, eyestrain, and trouble concentrating.
Scientists suggest that the optimal workstation setup uses natural light as much as possible, and allows workers to adjust bulb brightness to the level that’s comfortable for them.
Waiting for your muse or struggling with a complex problem? Turn your lights down low. Studies have found that dimming the lights can reduce people’s inhibitions, make them feel freer, boost creativity, and trigger an adventurous processing style that leads to out-of-the-box solutions. The relaxing, encouraging effects of low light are so pronounced in these experiments that even just talking about being in the dark made people more creative.
4. FALLING IN LOVE
Candlelight is romantic for some very unromantic reasons. Our eyes are not fixed, static entities; rather, they’re constantly working to make sense of what we see and control the amount of light we take in. Our pupils contract in bright light and expand in darkness. But light isn’t the only thing that influences pupil size. When we’re faced with something new or exciting, our pupils dilate so we can take it all in. Whether the cause for the dilation is dim lighting or attraction, the people around us subconsciously pick up on the signal. Because of this, our prehistoric ancestors learned to pay attention to one another’s eyes, and we’re far more likely to find someone interesting when their pupils are dilated.
So yeah, stock up on those candles.
Different types and levels of light have very different effects on our bodies and behavior. So what kind of light is best for eating? That depends on what you want from your food. If you’re trying to cut calories at home, bright fluorescent bulbs may be the way to go. One 2016 study found that diners in well-lit rooms were between 16-24 percent more likely to choose healthy foods than people in dimmer conditions. And the color blue, including blue light, like that emitted from fluorescent bulbs, is known to decrease appetite.
But if you think eating is about pleasure, throw all that advice out the window. A 2012 paper concluded that low lighting and soft music (like the ambiance you’d find in a fancy restaurant) made people both more relaxed and more likely to enjoy their food.
We know now that dim, warm light can help us relax and sleep, so it’s no real surprise that cool, bright light can do the opposite. A recent study from Korea tested three types of LED lights in the classroom: a warm, yellowish white light; a neutral light; and a cool, bluish white light that resembles daylight. Another classroom, the control group, kept its standard fluorescent lighting. Then all the students were given a difficult exam. Their scores were calculated, and the students interviewed about their experiences. The results showed that kids felt calmer and happier under yellow light—but their test scores improved under blue. The researchers concluded that the best classrooms would be equipped with both kinds: warm light for recess and other calm activities, and cool light to boost focus when it was needed most.