How better home lighting can improve our mood

March 6, 2019

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, approximately 3 per cent of UK residents suffer from seasonal affective disorder. In a country with rainfall for 106 days of the year, this could potentially lead to some very damaging effects, from reduced productivity to low energy and depression.

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

Though SAD mirrors many symptoms of depression, it is not entirely the same. SAD predominantly affects sufferers during the cooler winter months, when there are fewer hours of daylight and inclement weather.

SAD causes sufferers to go into a “hibernation” state, encouraging them to sleep more and crave carbohydrates. The resulting effects may be weight gain, difficulty getting out of bed in the mornings, and a reduced enthusiasm for activities they previously enjoyed.

In rarer cases, some sufferers may exhibit these symptoms in warmer weather, but generally, sufferers notice an improved mood and more energy when the weather picks up.

How can we combat SAD?

There are a number of lifestyle changes we can make to mitigate the effects of SAD. Increasing our exercise, trying to get outside in the daytime and taking herbal supplements such as St John’s Wort can all provide mood boosts.

However, for maximum effectiveness, we can also make changes from within, around the home.

How lighting can alleviate SAD symptoms

Researchers have discovered that light is one of our basic sensory needs, allowing us to function at our best. Not only this, but light also helps us to regulate our circadian rhythm – the natural cycle that controls when we sleep and wake. For our bodies to know when it’s time to go to sleep, we need natural darkness – just as light signals us to wake, night encourages the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Today’s schedules mean we can’t always get up in the light, but thankfully, technology is here to give us that natural boost. Modern lighting can be scheduled to complement your lifestyle, for example, automatically turning on soft lighting to wake us up in the morning, changing lighting to cool hues during the day, or even turning on in anticipation of your arrival home.

Automated LED lamps are a fantastic replacement for traditional alarm clocks. Rather than waking us up with a shock and potentially stressing us out for the rest of the day, they turn on slowly, brightening gradually and mimicking natural sunrise.

Different lighting for different environments

Gradual lighting is great for adapting your home environment to your activities. Rather than simple on or off switches, we can create a warm, soft glow that welcomes us into bed, slowly waning as we get ready to sleep.

The effects of lighting on our mood are also hugely determined by the colour scheme in the home. For example, be wary of darker colour schemes, as they tend to absorb more light. Lighting in these rooms should be bright if you want this to be an area for productivity, but dimmer and more relaxing if it is built for this purpose, such as a home cinema.

Poor lighting can have a detrimental effect on the look of the room, our mood, and our productivity. For example, if the lighting is too bright, particularly in a lighter room with shiny surfaces, this can hurt our eyes and make us feel more anxious.

Making more out of natural light

While the right lighting can mimic the effects of a natural summer’s day, it’s also important to make the most of the natural light you have. Blinds and curtains can enhance the lighting effects on a room, particularly if they are automated as part of the overall lighting scheme. It’s important to consider how much light you want – for example, blackout blinds may help you sleep in summer.

Conversely, too little natural light is associated with depression, and can even have a knock-on effect on our immune systems.

Choosing the right technology for your lighting needs

Consider the purpose of every room in your house. Is it a haven of tranquillity, like a living area, or a hub of activity, like a home office? This may affect your choices in terms of automated curtains, LED lamps or even the style of lights you use.

For example, downlights are great to use when it comes to artwork or panelling, whilst uplighting works well on structural, architectural and landscape features. Pendants are a great choice for hanging above a certain central feature in a room, such as a statement coffee table. By creating a better aesthetic, the benefits for your mood will simply be an added bonus!


If you’re looking for some inspiration on how to make the lighting in your home work for you, contact the SONA team today.