The positive power of natural light
My Grandma is 93 years old and has dementia. Over the last few months I have noticed that she is calmer and happier when outside or when she has access to natural daylight. Now living with my parents, she is often found in their large conservatory enjoying the light and tranquillity of views of the garden. Watching nature unfolding as she rests bathed in daylight there really is no better place for her.
And that got me thinking. Thinking about the power of daylight and what it can really do for our health and wellbeing.
So what do we know?
We all seek out sunlit places and enjoy spending time in natural light. We also know that research has proven that natural lighting helps people be productive, happier, healthier and calmer1. Having access to the outdoors is also widely considered to be therapeutic for elderly residents in long-term care settings. Studies confirm that older adults who spend time outdoors may derive health benefits such as better sleeping patterns, less pain, decreased urinary incontinence and verbal agitation, better recovery from disability, and even increased longevity2. Natural daylight is also known to help with some disorders including Seasonal Affective Disorder3, and more recently, a study has suggested that children raised in a sunny climate are less likely to develop attention deficit disorder (ADHD)4. The American researchers of this ADHD study say more work is needed but Dr Martin Arns, of Research Institute Brainclinics, said increasing the exposure to natural light may help prevent some ADHD and suggested skylights in classrooms as one possible measure that could be taken.
Adding to this growing body of research is the work of The Dementia Services Development Centre at the University of Stirling. They are dedicated to improving the lives of people with dementia and believe passionately that part of this improvement is designing outside spaces that enable dementia sufferers to get outside and enjoy fresh air, sunlight, plants and trees. As quoted in their book, Designing outdoor spaces for people with dementia, “Enabling people to get outdoors and be active, and in poor weather to be involved in activities that relate to the outside, could make a major contribution to their wellbeing and cost-effectiveness of care.”
The evidence seems to be overwhelmingly in favour for us all having greater access to natural light. And as well as having a positive impact on our health and wellbeing, increasing the level of natural light into a building also has the potential to decrease energy costs and improve the aesthetics of a space.
Incorporating light into design
So the obvious step to take when redeveloping a building, starting one from scratch, or creating additional facilities, is to make sure that natural light is in abundance.
And that’s where we come in. Whether it’s a skylight on an existing building, a garden room, an outdoor classroom, an office, or even your own dome home – the possibilities are endless. As a glass structure a Solardome® geodesic dome maximises solar gain and light transmission through the glass panes. It offers a practical and cost-effective solution to creating an environment full of natural light and can be customised to provide exactly what you need.
So what does the future hold?
There is an exciting piece of research being undertaken by Oxford University to test the biological effects of natural daylight on humans. Called the Daylight Project, it involves participants living in an all glass building – a Photon Pod – for at least three weeks. Residents of these Pods will receive 100 per cent access to daylight between dawn and dusk.
The Daylight Project is a fascinating way to explore the benefits of light, and one which may have far reaching implications for all types of buildings and organisations. However, we will have to wait four years before any conclusions have been made. What has been compelling though, is the quality and quantity of evidence already out there that demonstrates the positive power that light has on our health and wellbeing.
I’m sure my Grandma will continue to enjoy the benefits of natural light and I will definitely make a conscious effort to make sure I take every opportunity to get outside.
For more information about how our Solardome® geodesic domes can provide a unique way to give access to the outside, natural daylight and nature take a look at our company video.