The right way to light your home

10:00 AM

the right light can improve your mood and overall health and increase the "hygge" factor of your home
In the past week, two things happened that got me to write this post:

First, I received a book I ordered on Amazon and began reading it right away as my anticipation to read it kept building while I was waiting for it to come. And second, the book reminded me of a blog post I have been thinking of writing for years now. Only this time, I have a way to write it I never had before, good things come to those who wait they say.

The book in question has been featured on my Instagram feeds with this picture:

Danes are the happiest people in the world, and Hygge has something to do with it
The Little Book of Hygge explains Danish way of life and how "Hygge" (pronounced Hoo-ga) is what contributes to the Danes being the happiest people in the world. I'm still in the middle of reading it at the moment, and it's already a book I highly recommend to anybody looking at taking pleasure in simple things in life.

What got me thinking and blogging though is this paragraph:

"The closest you will ever come to seeing vampires burnt by daylight is by inviting a group of Danes for a hygge dinner and then placing them under a 5,000K fluorescent light tube. At first, they will squint, trying to examine the torture device you have placed in the ceiling. Then, as dinner begins, observe how they will move uncomfortably around in their chairs, compulsively scratching and trying to suppress twitches." ~ Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge. 

I wont be lying, this chapter stroke a very personal chord with me. I'm not Danish, but light has always been a VERY VERY important thing for me. From an early age I hated bright ceiling lights, and hated rooms lit with only one light.
I've always been in favour of multiple, soft light sources spread around a room at floor and eye level. Given the choice I'll go for floor lamps and table lamps over anything put on the ceiling.

This was a massive shock when I first arrived in India : Tube lights everywhere!

I hate them, hate their light and they stress me out. It also messes with my sleep cycles. And the scientific community seem to agree with me there. Too much light, or light that too closely mimic sunlight disrupt your circadian cycles and throw your melatonin production completely out of whack. This in turn messes your sleep cycles, and how your entire body works and regenerate. This means that along with the blue light emitted by screens (phone, TV, computer and tablet) bright white fluorescent lights and white LED lights should be nixed in your home at night, for your health's sake!

Insomnia is no joke people, I've been a life long sufferer, and the time I had no control over my night light source in the first few years in India were the absolute worst. I am persuaded it contributed to my metabolism problem and insulin resistance issue.

The light at your dinning table is very important to set the mood for the meal.

It's only when we moved into that lovely rooftop terrace flat we still remember fondly today that I FINALLY had one option to not be constantly exposed to these bloody tube lights: The lightbulb above our entry door.
I was still subjected to the harsh and rather horrendous white light in the other room, but at least I had the option to open my main door and sit in my living room with a few candles without being subjected to it while watching TV.

Over the years we added more "Cyn friendly" lights in our home : the bedside table lamps, a reading lamp in the study and a table lamp in the living room.

I can't even begin to tell you the amount of difference it made in my life! The stress level went down, falling asleep became easier and my evening were finally that transition between day light and that sweet state of sleepiness that makes you want to cozy up and close your eyes, happy and satisfied.

Always choose a warm white light for your home as opposed to cool white

My advice when you think or plan the lights in your home is to think about the main, and then secondary use the room will have and then plan from there.

A bedroom for example should never have a bright light, because a bedroom should be the place you go to at the end of your day to relax. Bedside table lamps are more than enough lighting for that room. Trust me on that, in ours more often than not we only use one of the two we have because the only thing we do beside sleeping is reading books.

In the living room, it pays to have more than one source of light, and at least one option for a ceiling light. We rarely use the ceiling one in ours, but when we have guests over, it comes in handy at dinner time. Ideally I would love a pendant light right above the dinning area, but that is sadly not possible in our flat. Our everyday living room lighting arrangement is a 3 source lights. One table light near the TV, one table light between the TV and dinning table and fairy lights at the dinning table:

Note the tube light in the picture above, we NEVER used it, the living room has a central 3 light bulb light that is far more flattering.

In the kitchen, it pays to have two lights setting : a ceiling bright light for when you are cooking, and a lighter "night light" for when you come in an out of said kitchen and do light work. Our current kitchen has a tube light on the ceiling and a small side light under the cabinets close the stove. This is the only room in which I will tolerate a tube light, at the default of liking it (there is nothing likeable about tube lights).

In a study, you again want multiple source lights you can modulate at will. One of those light should ALWAYS be a reading lamp on your desk, no ifs, no buts. You want the light to shed light on your workspace without casting shadows the way a ceiling lights would, and you want your eyes to not be in direct contact with the bulb of that lamp either.
The other light sources should be a floor level lamp to lend a softer glow to the space when you turn away from the desk, and a brighter ceiling light to turn on when the room is going to be the scene to some heavier work, like sorting out all your bills and important papers (we do that about twice a year).

Kids room should ALWAYS have soft lighting, like the living room. They are likely to use those lights just before bedtime and their circadian cycles are even more fragile than those of adults. Children release the growth hormone necessary to their overall development while they are asleep, so you do not want to mess with their sleep. Sleep is super important for growing kids, and it has even been found that kids with higher IQ where also the ones who have the most hours of undisturbed sleep at night.

All this brings us to those pesky light bulbs now! You know that the good old fashioned incandescent light bulbs of yore have been pronounced bad for the environment and your electricity bill.
In went the CFL bulbs and more recently LED bulbs. The problem? They are more commonly available in that dreaded white light, at least in India this is what most supermarkets and kirana stores will stock up. They do exist in a warm yellow light though, and if you take your time to go to a hardware shop or electrical supplies shop, they will have them, they often go by the name of "warm white".
Every one of my bulbs are either CFL or LED in yellow light. This is the first thing I change in every flat we move into:

I remove the white bulbs the flat came with, and put in the yellow ones I brought with me. When we move out, I switch all those bulbs again.

If you were not entirely convinced about the effect of bright lights on your health and why they should be banned from your home in the evenings here are two articles worth reading:

Too Much Light: Ruining not just your sleep but your health too.

Q&A: Why is blue light before bedtime bad for sleep?

Beside, soft warm lights add to the whole Hygge-factor, and since Danes are the happiest people in the world and have such a strong connection to Hygge and turned it into a way of life, we would be silly not to give it a try.
I myself am realising as I read this book that I have been "hygge-ing" all my life without knowing it. 

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  1. Anonymous5:31 PM

    I have often felt that softer light create an area of semi darkness and for someone who wears spectacles, it is very uncomfortable. I have to strain my eyes to see everything. With a weak eyesight, at night, I would rather prefer brighter light. I need bright light, no matter what I am doing, I guess I am used to bright lights.


    1. I have moderate near sightedness but less light at night doesn't bother me at all. I think that it also has to do with how soft light is placed around your home and what you do in it.

      As I said I have a reading lamp over my desk, I would never work in dim light, but I don't need the entire room to be bright, just what I am working on. Same in the bedroom, I read in bed before going to sleep. I don't need the entire room to be brightly lit, just need to have light right next to my book. In fact, in this regard, I do strain my eyes far less having just a nice. Warm yellow light about 2-3 feet away from my book than I did in the days we only had that one big bright and super harsh tube light on the ceiling. With a bedside table lamp the light is were I need it to be and unlike a tube light far above doesn't cast shadows on my book.

      To roam around my flat in the evenings I really don't need a bright light either, I need one while cooking, but not when I just go refill my cup of herbal tea or put a few dishes in the sink.

      Which is why I explained that in rooms that have multiple purposes it pays to have more than just one light strength or light source.
      Our living room has 3 soft lights source spread around at eye level, one of them is the "mirchi light" you see in the pictures. If we have guests we use the ceiling lamp on the ceiling, it still has warm yellow lights but brighter.

      White and blue lights coming from white CFL and LED bulbs and electronic devices is the worst and is disrupting our body's natural cycle and in the long run health. I also read somewhere that blue light from screens also can damage the eye far more than yellow lights ever would.
      So it pays to limit exposure to white and blue light as much as possible in the evenings.

      Especially when yellow light bulbs are available in both CFL and LED. If you need more brightness from them, just buy a bulb with a higher wattage

  2. Anonymous10:12 AM

    Good post, Cyn. I'm going to see if my library has that book. I'm very sensitive to bright lights, especially flickering lights. It'll push me into a migraine if I'm feeling like one is coming on. My optometrist has the most obnoxious, flickering fluorescent lights, and when I pointed it out to him in a nice way, he said most people don't notice such a slight flickering. Only me. ☹️ I'm sensitive to noise, too. I hate a loud TV. I like peace and quiet. I need to read that book!

    1. OMG I see the "pulse" in tube lights too, sounds crazy to most, but I do, I also hate the flight humming sound tube lights do, or the downright annoying loud humming they do when a fuse is defective.

      I hate loud noises too, but can't always control that. At least the light levels and quality I can do something about it.

      That book has been published in 2016, so if your library has it it is likely to be a new arrival.

  3. Oh I hate those bulbs & fluorescent tubes affixed to the wall.
    The ashy gray/blue hues they cast, the buzzing noise, the pulsing flicker ugh! Luckily we have large windows & lots of natural light in all rooms except for the bathrooms. I'd love to have table & floor lamps but there aren't proper electrical outlets at floor level on the walls of our home. I used to have a bright halogen lamp on my desk for reading/writing, crafts & applying makeup- halogen bulbs are bright but most like daylight in hue. Oh yes & the power surges and drops here in our electrical supply isn't too friendly to light bulbs of all sorts.

    1. Growing up my desk lamp was an halogen lamp, I loved it! Bright enough, but not harsh and a warm light still.

      In both the flat with the ugly pink wall and this flat, we had to ask the electrician to add plug points for our bedside tables in the bedroom.
      In this flat, it seems enough previous tenants added plug points here and there because the original fixtures are extremely minimalist when it comes to plugs.

      I found that CFL bulbs tend to take the surge and fluctuation in power well enough, we did burst a number of regular filament bulbs in our roof top flat in Bangalore though, back then we stuck to that above the entry door because we couldn't find the yellow CFL at first, then once we did, the problem of the bulb frying up all the time was gone.

      Looks like there are quite a few of us who actually do see the pulsing flickering of tube light and are bothered by it huh?


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