The invention of the electric light bulb over a century ago has radically changed how people around the world live. It has turned night into day, providing illumination to homes, workplaces, stores and restaurants, and streets. It keeps people safe, gives people the capacity to do work, and allows people to socialize and engage in hobbies after the sun goes down. Without immediate access to artificial light, it is hard to imagine how the modern world will look.
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Artificial Light Is a Problem
However, throughout the years, it has been increasingly clear that artificial light is not all good. It disrupts the pattern of day and night for many animals. It is already causing birds and sea turtles to become disoriented. There are always bright artificial lights altering the behavior of bats, crickets, and moths.
But, the consequences of the proliferation of artificial light, especially in urban areas, extend to humans, too. The human body did not evolve with artificial light. Although it has been an ever-present part of modern life, over a century of artificial light is nothing to the millennia humans have spent functioning based on the rising and setting of the sun.
Yet, so many people do not get time under the sun. Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. If they are not in their homes, they are at the office, theater, restaurant, or store. Even those who sleep during the daytime and work at nighttime never have the chance to see the light of day. And, this is causing a long list of adverse health effects.
The Benefits of Natural Light
At this point, everybody knows that the body needs sun exposure to produce vitamin D. People can now take the vital nutrient in pill form, but the easiest way to get it is by simply going outside for a few minutes every day.
Vitamin D is necessary for supporting healthy bones and teeth, the immune system, and the metabolism of glucose. Meanwhile, those who do not get enough doses of the nutrient daily are at a higher risk of high blood pressure levels and cardiovascular diseases.
Moreover, when people go out during the daytime, they can reset their circadian rhythm. The body relies on light to determine whether it is day or night. So, when a person is constantly exposed to artificial light, there is no way for the body to discern if it should wake up or go to sleep. Often, people who do not get enough sunlight experience trouble sleeping.
Sleeplessness leads to a number of health consequences. It increases the risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
In addition, previous studies have proven that sunlight has the capacity to improve mood. The UVB rays from the sun trigger the skin to release beta-endorphins, hormones known to reduce pain and promote relaxation. It also gives a sense of overall well-being.
Putting Natural Daylight into Design
The health benefits of sun exposure on a person’s physical and mental health are well-documented. That is why people from around the world are looking for ways to create opportunities to bring in natural light indoors.
Access to natural light has been a popular feature in interior design. Many home buyers seriously consider when a property gets a lot of sunlight in selecting a house to purchase. Moreover, having a conservatory, a room primarily made with glass to allow sunlight to shine through and offer a view of the outdoors, is still a desired feature in luxury homes.
Daylighting is the term used to describe the process of bringing natural light into a space. There are multiple ways to allow more sunlight to shine and enter a home. The glass blocks, popular back in the ‘80s, are on trend again. It is a decorative material that is translucent and, often, patterned. Homeowners can replace regular walls with glass blocks to provide structural integrity and allow a bit of natural light to come in. Plus, it lends a retro look to the home.
Skylights, which are already present in many homes, also create another point for sunlight to enter. It is a great way to brighten up the room during the day, eliminating the need for artificial light.
In addition, glass panels are blurring the line between the indoors and outdoors. Aside from allowing the sun to shine through, the glass panels can be opened to also welcome fresh air and give a better view of the natural environment.
Sunlight is good for a person’s physical and mental health. People around the world finally realize the consequences of being indoors all day and not having access to natural light. This has an influence on how they choose and design their homes.