Wellness: reporting the Light Diet

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to Lys Technologies and their Light Diet. Read about it in ‘Wellness: taking care of your circadian rhythm‘. Since then, I’ve been wearing their . . .er . . ‘wearable’ (you see what happens when you mess with language!). I can now report on my findings.

But first: a note on the scientific value of these findings. ZERO is the scientific value because we had a cohort of ONE – me. So while you get an insight into what I get up to on a daily basis, I don’t recommend that you extrapolate much from it.

And yet . . .

Here are some of the things that I know now that I didn’t know then:

The Lys ‘wearable’ clipped onto a shirt pocket
  • I can achieve half of my morning light goal by walking from home to the paper shop. That’s about fifteen minutes all told. More information: I live in the beautiful town of Sherborne where the tallest structure is still the Abbey tower, as it has been for the past 600 years. Roofs along the street are pitched, so there’s plenty of daylight and not much evidence of the modernist canyons that exist in many cities. I feel privileged to be here – and the quality of light tells me why.

We spend a lot of time worrying about urban folk not getting sufficient light in the morning to ensure their circadian entrainment. Well, I’m here to tell you that things may not be so bad after all.

  • Not unexpectedly, there’s more than enough daylight while I’m driving to continue the 100% intake, and probably not just because I drive a Honda Jazz. Similarly, grab a window seat on the train and it’s still all train-tickety-boo.
  • My favourite form of exercise is being out on my Thorn Audax touring bicycle. What a machine! Wearing a cycle helmet does not interfere with the light diet – unless you wear sunglasses, of course. But even then, its likely to be OK. My entirely unscientific method of trying to measure light-loss through the lens of the sunglasses suggests that I lose 15% or thereabouts, but a bright wintry day will provide more than enough to compensate.
    Other sunglasses are available, of course.
  • What I wasn’t expecting was to find that I was still being well light-fed while travelling on the tube – on the Jubilee line at any rate.

So – maybe the journey into work isn’t such an issue after all. This kind of light monitoring could have a significant impact on the way that we approach biodynamic lighting design, given that one current proposal is to have +1000Lux at 6500K available for an hour or so first thing in the morning.

At the workplace

Bluetooth connection between wearable and mobile device

The day light goal is all about what happens during the major part of the day. Unsurprisingly, the worst place for the home-worker is to be at home, working. I sit at a desk, facing a wall, with a narrow arrow-slot window to one side to tell me if its raining, and a west-ish facing window behind me. Because of the occasional low afternoon sun, the blinds are often drawn on that window. Hmm.

As you know, at my desk I combine a pair of vintage PAR38 spotlights, fitted with fancy Philips PAR38 LEDs, with an on-trend tunable-white desk lamp from Seoul Semiconductors, fitted with Sunlike LEDs.And with all of that I’m only achieving around 60% of what my diet calls for, so its vitally important that I go and sit under the Velux in the living room, with a nice cup of tea. That makes everything alright.

And after dark

My night light goal should be a doddle . Common assumptions may be that we follow life-style patterns that destroy any chance of a good night’s sleep, but let me tell you; not in our gaff, it doesn’t. All that modern technology is locked away for the duration and the TV is switched off by 10pm. This exciting life we lead is typical of the geriatric swinger vibe that permeates the town. Too much cocoa? I can handle it.

But this was the real stunner – and someone needs to explain to my partner why it’s now dangerous for me to go into the kitchen to do the washing-up. Because – yes – the one thing in life that upsets my evening light diet is the lighting in the kitchen. Between cooking and washing-up, my target diet can be knocked down to around 50%.

Working with the software

The graphical interface designed by Lys Technologies is easy to understand. Light readings are set out in a dandelion clock motif – radial lines of appropriate length, relating to time of day. Clever. It provides the stimulus to ‘nudge’ behaviour in the right direction. Why, this very morning I went for a walk round town, just because my readings for yesterday were so appallingly low.

Lys has decided not to give readings in actual light values, preferring to cater for a lay audience who understand that 0% is bad and 100% is good. Of course, the thing about percentage readings is that there’s no way of ascertaining just how much light 100% relates to . . . and it’s certainly irritating if you’re used to working in illuminance values but, let’s face it, we’re in very small minority so we have to learn to put with it.

The Lys Light Diet lasts for seven days. At the end of the diet period, the Lys software provides a downloadable report that enables you to analyse your light performance over the week.

Taken at the professional level, the depth of the analysis available from the information gathered by the Lys wearable device includes:
light information: RGB values; colour temperature values (Kelvin); Illuminance values (Lux)
individual data can be recorded within the device: Chronotype; Age; Gender
response data from the wearer: Perceived sleep; Perceived energy levels ; Before/After comparisons; Health and well-being reports • Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports

The future

The cost of the Lys equipment is sufficiently attractive for some folks to decide to take matters into their own hands and check out how much light they’re living and working under. That will bring the same kind of surprises for them that I’ve experienced and, hopefully, ways will be mended accordingly.

But there will be a lot of work spaces that will record a long way below that 100% target. If the message gets through that poor lighting can result in serious physical problems, there may be some employers reaching for the phone asking what they need to do about it.

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