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UW study: Indoor lights mimicking sunrise, sunset would improve well-being

Researchers at the University of Washington recently published a study showing that indoor lights mimicking sunrise and sunset would improve our sleep cycles, moods, and energy levels.

Our eyes are trained to recognize the changing lights in a sunrise and sunset, and this helps set our circadian rhythms. But the artificial lights we tend to use indoors during Washington winters are so different from natural light that they can interfere with our internal clock.

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In gloomy, dark Seattle winters, we live under artificial lights, but these aren’t good for our health and happiness.

“In certain places where it’s gloomy outside like Seattle, there’s lots of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, and there’s just all sorts of problems of living under artificial lights all the time where we’re just not as happy and healthy as we hope we would be,” UW School of Medicine ophthalmology professor Jay Nietz said.

As the sun rises and sets, our eyes pick up subtle changes in the color of light. This means that our eyes use light color at sunrise and sunset to tell what time it is, and this helps sets our circadian rhythms.

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“We set our internal biological clock to the external light/dark cycle. As the sun rises and sets, the total amount of light changes, which is something that’s been studied a lot, but the color of the light changes as well,” said lead author Sarah Patterson.

UW has licensed this technology to lighting technology company TUO, which will start selling special light bulbs with undetectable sunrise and sunset wavelengths later this year.

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