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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Kelley

Why Thoughtful Circadian Lighting Is Important in Your Custom Home Design

Gazing into the night sky, you feel a connection with nature as you see the lights of twinkling stars. At daybreak, you can watch the sky transform from dark to light with the rising sun. And when the day ends, the sun illuminates the sky with a rainbow of colors.

Your body wants to follow the natural rhythm of the sun, turning to night and back to day again. This circadian rhythm improves your sleep quality, enhances your performance, and plays a vital role in your eating habits, digestion, and metabolism.

As a professional architect, implementing circadian lighting strategies into the design of your custom home is essential to creating a healthy living environment for you and your family.

Home lighting influences your hormones

Our ancestors rose at sunrise and slept when it got dark. Lanterns and candlelight lighted homes, and each room had the soft glow of firelight. Streetlights were gas-lit and extinguished during the night. The nights were dark, and our great-grandparents enjoyed a canopy of stars overhead.

With the lightbulb's invention, we were no longer restricted by hours of sunlight, lighting our homes whenever we desired. We lost our connection to nature and the flow of natural sunlight.

The changes in lighting that we experienced caused confusion in our bodies, making it difficult to know when to sleep or wake up. The production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep, was either delayed or reduced, making it difficult to fall asleep and reducing sleep duration. Disruptions in cortisol levels increase stress levels, so getting up in the morning or relaxing in the evening is challenging. Exposure to unnatural lighting and artificial blue light may have also affected other hormone levels, such as insulin, which controls glucose; ghrelin, which stimulates appetite; and leptin, which signals satiety.

This doesn't mean you should live in the dark, but rather ensure your custom home has a circadian lighting design to allow you to reconnect with nature's natural rhythm.

Natural light and home orientation

A lighting design can start with your dream home's orientation and the sun's natural path. Selecting the best positioning of your home on the site promotes your well-being. You might want to position your bedroom in a way that allows natural sunlight to wake you up, improving your emotions and energy levels in the morning.

Sunlight lowers stress levels and anxiety, as well as improves your mood. By designing overhangs or angling and setting back windows, you can shield your home's interior from the hot afternoon sun while allowing the sunshine inside. Or bring natural light into your home through skylights or clerestory windows.

A professional architect has the expertise to efficiently and effectively capture sunlight so you and your family can enjoy a healthy and well-balanced home.

Create a natural rhythm with electric lighting

In addition to house orientation and natural light, you need electric lighting in your home. With the recent ban on manufacturing and selling incandescent light bulbs that produce fewer than 45 lumens per watt, designers are selecting other electric lighting solutions. Fluorescent lights may flicker, affect your eye's sensitivity, and impact your hormonal system. Halogen bulbs tend to generate heat and can increase a room's temperature. Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs are the most commonly used solution today.

For Theresa, my client in Hawaii, I designed cove lighting to illuminate the gentle arch ceiling in her home. The LED strip gives off a dim to warm glow under the soffit, adding character to the great room. In the ceiling, barely visible, tiny dot fixtures about half an inch in size give a magical feeling to the space, lighting up like stars in the sky yet delivering sufficient light to illuminate the area.

Companies such as Ketra, Neutron Lights, and Savant offer home circadian lighting systems. These programmable systems imitate the sun's natural movements throughout the day, emulating the circadian rhythm. Soft, warm lighting in the morning transitions to brighter, whiter light during the day, keeping you alert and focused. As evening approaches, the lighting becomes warmer and dimmer, preparing your body for restful sleep.

As a professional architect, I recommend dimmers for all home lighting. You can control the light in a space and allow your body to align with nature's light rhythms. Dimmer switches create an ambiance if you are hosting a party. Or dim the lights in the kitchen in the evening, so you aren't disturbed by bright lights when you get a glass of water in the middle of the night.

The lightbulbs, fixtures, and lighting systems you choose all influence the ambiance in the spaces and the feelings you create, allowing you to be more in tune with the sun's movement across the sky.

Types of lighting for your home

For a well-lit home with character and ambiance, combine lighting types. Ambient or general lighting is a baseline level of light for a space. Task lighting is perfect for reading and cooking. Accent lighting with a pendant light, chandelier, or wall sconce adds beauty and helps highlight a particular area of your home. The bulbs you choose also influence the atmosphere from cold and sterile to warm and inviting.

It's important to have adequate lighting for visibility in your bedrooms while ensuring the room is not too bright. I recommend using warm LED lights around 2,700-3,000K, which provide sufficient lighting without being too disruptive. Warm amber lights like 1800K Kinur bulbs are ideal for children's and babies' rooms, as they do not interfere with their sleep patterns. These bulbs are perfect for nightstand lamps. Additionally, it's a good idea to use desk and standing lamps that can be easily adjusted for different tasks, especially reading.

Note: Kelvin (K) measures color temperature and describes the "warmth" or "coolness" of the light emitted. Below 2,700K is considered warm light for a cozy and inviting ambiance and great for spaces where you want to relax. Low Kelvin values from 2,700K to 3,000K produce a warm white light with a yellowish hue. Values from 3,500K to 4,100K appear neutral or cool white. High Kelvin values from 5,000K and above are a cool, bluish-white light similar to daylight.

When designing a custom home for your well-being, circadian lighting helps create the mood and sensations and supports the functions that align with your lifestyle.

Mimic the circadian rhythm for your well-being

A home lighting system can support you to align with your circadian clock and benefit your well-being. Blue-enriched white light in the morning stimulates alertness, while the bright bluish-white light of midday promotes better cognitive functionality. The light becomes redder in the late afternoon. Setting the system to warmer hues that turn to reds and oranges in the evening signals the brain to make melatonin for sleep. But ultimately, nothing surpasses natural sunlight at different times of the day. Go outside and expose your naked eyes to natural light.

Furthermore, limiting the amount of artificial blue light emitted from your electronic devices like phones and computers is also recommended. The blue light emission influences your hormone balance, eye health, mood, and cognitive functions.

More and more information is showing the adverse effects of blue light on health. I recommend reading The Light Doctor by Dr. Moore-Ede. Try wearing blue light-blocking glasses. Vivarays has designed glasses with multiple lenses to use during the day, in the evening, and at night to help block out the blue light. Iris is a blue light-blocking app you can install to filter the blue light on your computer.

I'm sharing my awareness and the benefits I've experienced from following the natural light cycles and reducing my exposure to blue light. Implementing these changes in my life has made it easier to fall asleep, wake up in the morning, and focus during the day.

Circadian lighting in your home design

Thoughtfully designing your home's lighting to align with the circadian rhythm creates a healthier living environment. Hormones like melatonin, cortisol levels, and insulin are better regulated by following a more natural lighting cycle, helping you sleep better and increasing your productivity.

Bring sunlight indoors through the positioning and orientation of your home on your site. Choose systems that automatically provide the proper lighting based on the time of day. Your home will have a unique ambiance with the right fixtures and bulbs to illuminate your spaces.

If you are ready to design your custom home and want to explore circadian lighting and the benefits to your family's wellness, call me, and let's start the conversation: Tel: 858-344-2404, or email:

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