Could you be suffering from malillumination? Photobiologist John Ott coined the term to describe inadequate sunlight intake. He and others call the light from the sun a super nutrient — and we aren’t getting enough of it.
If you calculate how much light you get outdoors every day, you’ll likely be astonished how little it amounts to, especially during the winter months. I have an active extended family. How did we stack up? Shockingly badly. One of four sisters, three of us are lucky if we get two hours outside a week in the winter. We get our exercise inside on treadmills. The only one of who gets adequate light lives in New York City and walks everywhere.
What are we risking by such a lack of natural light? Plenty. Ultraviolet (UV) light, in moderation, is good for our health.
There are three essential aspects of light that we need every day for good health:
1. The full SPECTRUM of the sun’s light rays in its natural color balance. Most windows block this complete full spectrum.
2. BRIGHT light. If the light you receive each day, artificial or natural, isn’t bright enough, your body’s hormones won’t kick into gear to activate your circadian rhythm. The light brightness measurement is called a lux, and we need 2,500 to 10,000 lux brightness to stimulate our circadian rhythm. (Most regular incandescent bulbs produce a lux of 500.)
3. 15 TO 20 MINUTES of exposure every day to full spectrum sunlight without sunscreens or UV-blocking glasses for the skin to manufacture vitamin D. Vitamin D keeps bones strong and may help prevent some cancers.
The sad truth is that for most of us, our indoor-based lifestyles make it difficult to get enough light. But you can use full-spectrum lighting to help make it up.
Use full-spectrum, natural-spectrum or daylight-spectrum lightbulbs.
The average home has 34 light sockets! Take a good look at where full-spectrum lightbulbs would benefit you and your family. For me the two musts are a full-spectrum desk lamp, and a full-spectrum floor lamp near my place on the couch where I like to curl up and read. I also buy natural spectrum compact fluorescent bulbs for the kitchen, because we spend a lot of time there.
The ideal solution is to use full-spectrum light bulbs in as many places in your home as you are able, and to position yourself in front of windows that let bright sunlight in.
Manufacturers of full-spectrum bulbs claim that after sitting in the light of such a bulb for eight hours, the amount of UV light exposure equals around 15 minutes of comparable outdoor exposure … just barely enough. But a high lux lamp such as the HappyLite produces 10,000 lux.