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LED there be Light! How light perception can affect our body clocks

Posted by Team ADI on

 Image result for leds and plants

This talk by Jessica Gamble on natural sleep cycles highlights one of the many areas in which light perception can affect us. So how do we ensure we get the right dosage of light at the right timings to increase our health?

Circadian Cycles

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All earthbound organisms, plant and animal alike, have what we call Circadian cycles, which we can understand as our natural body clocks. Hailing from the Latin Circa (approximately) and diem (day),  Circadian Rhythms are built in  and are adjusted to external cues provided by our environment, such as light and temperature.This process is often called diurnal rhythms if they revolve around a 24 hour timeframe. 

Nature is flowered with many examples of Circadian cycles, for example plants begin to produce enzymes related to photosynthesis just as the sun is about to rise, and utilizes these during the sunrise. Many animals have these internal body clocks to regulate their hibernation and feeding routines. Early humans, especially those living before artificial light was invented, had vastly different sleeping patterns compared to us.

Scientific studies have been conducted to observe these patterns. By depriving the participants of any access to artificial light in the experimental living environment, it was concluded that most humans actually have two sleep cycles at night, with a meditative quiet period in between, and experience a more energetic morning lifestyle than normal.

So how have we reached the infamous complaints of fatigue and frequent insomnia today?

Flicker and LEDs

The answer lies in the the controversy around Human Light Perception. Human light perception studies revolve around studying the effects that a variety of artificial lights have on human health. The two that we’d like to highlight are Flicker and the effect of blue LEDs.

Flicker is a phenomenon witnessed in LEDs  and CFLs as they lack the thermal persistence of incandescent lamps that mask the effect. It refers to the fluctuation of light output from on to off resulting from the lack of proper electronic circuitry such as a good quality drivers. Prolonged exposure can cause stroboscopic effects and headaches, and can even cause seizures in some individuals.

The high intensity blue LED has a much more varied effect. Apparently, the blue light can shift and reset the circadian rhythms of humans and fish. It basically signals the body to increase its activity. Thus while we can appreciate the bright and colourful alertness that blue LEDs and artificial lights bring us, we need to be more careful in its applications to ensure our body clocks remain calibrated to a healthy levels.

Plants and humans are more alike than we look, especially when it comes to responding to light. The EcoQube C contains programmable LED features that keep both our circadian rhythms in sync. Find out more at


- Ariz Ansari, ADI Intern

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