The Psychological Impact of Lighting: How It Dictates Our Moods, Emotions and Actions


Let us guess? You’re reading this whilst sitting in an interior space under artificial lighting.

We’re right…right?

Don’t worry, we’re not psychic and Big Brother is not watching you. We know that there is every chance that you’re currently sat inside with the lights switched on because, for most of us, modern living necessitates that we spend large amounts of our time indoors, at a desk and under bright lighting.

This lifestyle only becomes more prevalent at this time of year, too, especially for those of us living and working in northerly countries with limited numbers of daylight hours. Yes, as the winter months bring a seemingly endless stream of shorter, colder days, we find ourselves retreating inside to carry on with our lives under the reassuring glow of ceiling lights, desk lamps and computer screens.


Image Source

Image Source

Image Source



But, as you’ve probably already guessed from the title of this article, light (be it natural or artificial) has a HUGE impact on human psychology. It plays a major role in determining the state of our mental health, our sleeping habits, our emotions and even our behavioural patterns. Knowing this, it becomes immediately clear that managing interior lighting effectively is of great importance to us all, both personally and professionally.

Yes, on top of providing us with the insight needed to install tasteful, comforting lighting in our own homes, it is crucial that interior designers, architects and visual merchandisers (amongst others) understand how they can use lighting strategically in order to leave their clients satisfied and their profits maximised.

Unsure of how to do this? Relax…we’ve got it covered. In this article, our experts will walk you through some of the ways in which light has an impact on our brains before explaining the methods you can use to ensure that interior lighting works for you rather than against you.


How Lighting Impacts the Human Brain


Human beings are biological slaves to light. Our bodily functions and cycles – alertness, rest, digestion, temperature control, hormone production and even cell renewal – are all determined by our Circadian rhythms. Over millennia, these rhythms have evolved according to the earth’s natural shifts between the sunlight of day and the darkness of night.

Now, advances in lighting technology (thanks, Thomas Edison) mean that we’re no longer forced back into our caves to sleep when the sun sets. Rather, humans are now able to do anything at anytime regardless of whether it’s the day or the night. Convenient? Definitely. But it’s also caused confusion for our bodies as they are no longer regulated by natural stimuli. Research carried out by the University of Toronto shows that subjecting ourselves to “unnatural” strengths of light for a particular time of day can have negative effects such as altered sleep schedules, impaired concentration and decreased energy levels.

Image Source


The solution? Interior lighting solutions which offer users the flexibility to adjust the intensity of the light emitted depending on the time of day or the purpose being served. Entire lighting schemes can be designed to incorporate such functionalities and operate using centralised control systems. By partnering from the outset of a project, designers, architects and visual merchandisers can work alongside their manufacturers to ensure that the interior lighting created for their space is optimised to help them achieve particular objectives…commercial, aesthetic, environmental or otherwise.


Image Source


Colour Temperature.

The colour temperature of light is another factor which massively affects our bodies. ‘Warm’ lights (those with a lower colour temperature) appear less bright than ‘cool’ lights (those with a higher colour temperature). The temperature, then, refers to the tone of the colour of the light being emitted, relative to a ‘theoretical black body’– bluey-white equals cold whilst yellowy-white equals warm!

Image Source


But, how does this affect us day to day? It’s a well-known fact that whiter, cooler lights make an environment feel more energised and stimulating. Rooms lit in this way make us feel more alert to our surroundings, more focused on what we’re doing and can invite us to be more productive. Conversely, warmer lights make an environment feel cosier and more welcoming. This is why they’re used in romantic restaurants, for example, as they encourage intimacy and relaxation.

With the colour temperature of lights having such a fundamental impact upon our emotions and moods, we’re given the opportunity to use interior lighting strategically. How? By specifying lights that are most appropriate for the environment we’re trying to establish and most helpful in encouraging people to behave in a certain way. We’ve already taken the example of restaurants, but there are innumerable other spaces (public and private) which can be improved through intelligently chosen lighting. Cool white lights, for example, are perfect for meeting rooms and offices where people need to be switched on, concentrating hard and working productively. At the other end of the scale, warm white lights are ideal for places like hotel bedrooms, bars and luxury clothing stores.

Image Source

Image Source



At Unibox, our design and engineering experts are equipped with the knowledge and experience needed to create products that are perfectly suited to meet the requirements of your space. We take great pride in being able to empower you by sharing our insights and technical understandings so that, together, we can develop lighting solutions with the ability to greatly improve an interior’s form and functionality.

To learn more about how we can help you maximise the potential of your space, get in touch with one of our team by clicking the link below.


Contact us