What lighting is conducive to learning and how does it affect our health?

Well-chosen desk lighting directly affects the effectiveness of studying or working, well-being and our concentration. Although light is an essential element of our everyday life, we rarely realize its fundamental importance. Scientific research confirms that light not only regulates our circadian rhythm, but also shapes our cognitive abilities. For this reason, it is worth investing in lighting carefully tailored to the individual needs of users, including the youngest ones, which will promote motivation, concentration and relaxation.

What are the health benefits of sunlight?

Natural sunlight has many positive effects on us – first of all, contact with the sun supports the production of vitamin D in the body, which helps to strengthen immunity, better absorption of calcium and protection against heart disease. What’s more, this vitamin is important for our well-being, because it stimulates the production of serotonin, the hormone of happiness.

Secondly, daylight is essential for regulating our biological clock and influencing our circadian rhythm. Cells in the retina, particularly those sensitive to blue light, influence the area of ​​the brain responsible for our circadian rhythm, regulating our activity during the day and recovery at night.

Well-chosen light can increase a student’s ability to concentrate while learning by up to 10-20%

Experts point out that exposing the eyes to intense light can increase the production of serotonin in an area of ​​the brain called the hypothalamus.

Moreover, studies also show that intense light also affects other areas of the brain responsible for alertness and concentration. In light of these findings, scientists wonder how exactly light affects learning processes and the ability to concentrate.

Differences between natural and artificial light

Studies on the analysis of brain function show that the type of light, especially its spectrum, plays a key role in the interpretation of emotional stimuli. The blue component, dominant in natural light, intensifies our reactions to emotional sound stimuli. Meanwhile, in traditional, artificial lighting, unfortunately, this component is often missing.

Sunlight has also been found to boost cognitive abilities, including executive functions, and not just in people struggling with sleep deprivation. In addition, light characterized by shorter wavelengths, intensity, and higher color temperature has been shown to lower melatonin levels, increase alertness, reduce drowsiness, improve concentration, and shorten reaction times.

Additional research has shown that 500 lux of lighting, compared with the typical 300 lux, improves reading, writing and math skills, especially for younger students.

It has also been established that light with variable intensity and appropriate colour temperature (between 4,000 K and 17,000 K) has a beneficial effect on the health and development of young people, positively influencing their physical development, ability to concentrate and educational achievements.

All this leads to a clear conclusion – properly selected lighting during learning can improve a student’s ability to concentrate by up to 10-20%.

What does “adequate” lighting mean?

In the debate on this topic, many experts emphasize the advantages of natural light. They recommend that the place of study should be located as close as possible to a natural light source, preferably by a window. The side of the light should be taken into account depending on the preferred hand – for right-handed people, the light should fall from the left side, while for left-handed people from the right.

Nowadays, a significant part of young people spend more than 3/4 of their day indoors, which significantly limits their access to natural light. Moreover, due to our geographical location, children work and study in artificial light for a large part of the year. In these circumstances, it is crucial to provide them with a well-lit place to study.

Despite the sentiment for the warm light of traditional light bulbs, to stimulate cognitive development it is worth considering light with a cooler shade, similar to natural daylight.

Light color is measured in Kelvin (K) units. A higher Kelvin number indicates a cooler hue. For example, sunset light is around 2,000 K, which is warm. Daytime sunlight, on the other hand, is between 5,000 and 5,500 K. As a result, experts recommend that artificial light should be in the 3,300-6,500 K range.

Best light for studying?

The most suitable light for the learning process is the one that stimulates brain activity, i.e. the one with a value of about 6500 K. Therefore, a cooler light is preferred, which promotes concentration and clarity of mind. On the other hand, too warm a color can lead to a feeling of tiredness and sleepiness.

Optimal desk lighting is characterized not only by the right color, but also by the right brightness, which is measured in lumens (lm). Although a higher number of lumens means brighter light, too much lighting can strain the eyes and have a negative effect on the eyes.

The optimal brightness for a student space should be around 1000 lumens, which is equivalent to a traditional 75W light bulb.

You should also pay attention to the color of the desk surface: dark colors absorb light, while light colors reflect it. For a darker desk, a light output of around 1500 lumens is recommended, while for a lighter desk, 1000 lumens will be sufficient.

Another important aspect is the color rendering index (CRI), which is measured on a scale from 1 to 100. The higher the value, the more precise the color reproduction of the light, which in turn translates into visual comfort. For desk lighting, a CRI of at least 80 is recommended, although a higher value is more desirable.

When to use artificial lighting while studying and performing duties?

Research conducted by Dutch scientists has shown that bright and intense light, which gives energy, is most effective in the morning hours. It helps students adjust to the rhythm of the day and maintains high concentration. However, as the hours pass, its positive effect weakens.

As the day progresses, it is recommended to gradually reduce the brightness of the light. This is to alleviate the feeling of irritation or exhaustion that can result from heavy mental work and spending many hours in an educational institution. A softer light intensity is beneficial for developing creative thinking.

Researchers in the Netherlands have undertaken research into the effects of dynamic lighting in schools, examining how different light settings, including changes in intensity and colour, affect students during classes.

In three independent experiments involving almost 200 primary school students, it was observed that light with an intensity of approximately 600 lx and a colour temperature of 4000 K had a positive effect on students’ perception, engagement and mood.
Properly adjusted lighting in classrooms has a positive effect on the effectiveness of learning, concentration and fluency of reading of students. Specialists noticed that in rooms with dynamic lighting systems, students made fewer mistakes in tests over time and were less likely to display aggressive behavior.

Experts emphasize the importance of proper lighting, especially in the first years of elementary education, when students develop the ability to concentrate.

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