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Eclipsing Workplace Fatigue & Re-syncing Your Circadian Rhythm

Circadian lighting control can help boost productivity, concentration, and creativity

Crestron lighting control interface

On Monday, the world will momentarily go dark, as the moon moves in front of the sun, temporarily obstructing it. Parts of 14 states will be treated to the full solar eclipse, while the rest of North America and portions of South America, Africa, and Europe will only get to see a partial solar eclipse. Although viewing a solar eclipse may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, transitioning from light to dark to artificial light and back again is something we do every day without even thinking about it.

Today’s workforce is driving more people to spend more time indoors, away from natural light – 73 percent of millennials in the workforce report working more than 40 hours a week and expect to work many more years than their parents did.

This trend is not doing any favors to our sleep schedules. Our circadian rhythm, or internal clock, is drastically affected when we don’t spend time in natural light. The sun’s natural light works together with our eyes to tell our body when to release or suppress melatonin, or when to feel sleepy or awake. When we don’t receive these signals, or when they’re regularly interrupted, our internal clock goes haywire, making us feel sleepy during the day and keeping us wide awake at night. For example, sitting in an office under harsh LED or fluorescent lights all day make it difficult to fall asleep at night. In winter, when the sun sets earlier, our bodies are subjected to these artificial lights way after sunset; continually suppressing melatonin and not preparing us for bedtime. This results in us not getting enough sleep, and ultimately feeling groggy the next day (we all know that feeling).

While having trouble sleeping at night or needing to reach for that extra cup of coffee during the day may seem like a minor issue, it’s actually a huge problem for the workforce. That’s because tired workers equal reduced productivity and efficiency and, ultimately, lost revenue. On top of that, a recent study shows that employees who feel tired or burnt-out are 31 percent more likely to look for a new job compared to their peers who feel refreshed starting the workday. These are all big (and costly) problems for employers.

While tossing our computers out the window and spending more time in the sunshine may seem like the only solution to correcting the world’s sleep patterns, there is an alternative route that involves using technology to help resync our internal clocks. Circadian lighting control is being introduced to offices across the country to help boost productivity, concentration, and creativity. It basically takes the color temperature, not intensity, of artificial lights into account and alters it throughout the day for optimal exposure, helping keep your internal clock in check.

Color temperature is a measurement in Kelvin used to represent the “whiteness” of a light. High color temperatures give off a “cool” white (or blueish light), while low color temperatures give off a “warmer” yellowish glow. Circadian lighting control lets color temperatures be adjusted automatically throughout the day. The changes are nearly unperceivable by the human eye, but can greatly affect your circadian rhythm. For example, during the post-lunch, midday lull, lights will automatically be set to a bright white/blue color temperature to help in suppressing melatonin, and help keep you productive and alert. As the day goes on, the lights automatically shift to a warmer more yellow color temperature, which helps prepare your body for the release of melatonin at night, allowing for a better night’s sleep.

Taking a look at how our work environments affect our lives, not just at the office but outside of it as well, is crucial to keeping happy and healthy employees. Using color temperature to help influence sleep cycles, and in turn our productivity during the day, is a key way for organizations to uncover the power technology can have on its employees’ health and happiness. However, during next week’s eclipse, circadian lighting won’t be of much help!

PS: for those of you who want to dig in a little deeper, you can nerd out here: http://crestron.com/downloads/pdf/circadian_rhythm_lighting/circadian_lighting_control_whitepaper.pdf

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