Thursday, August 19, 2010

Follow Up on Fluorescent Lights and Mood

Last Friday I blogged about my suspicion that the fluorescent lights in our sewing room were causing me to feel a bit depressed.  The subject brought on a couple interesting topics above and beyond the fluorescent lights:  Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the need to get plenty of sun for Vitamin D production.  Both important topics in their own rights. 

Marg noted that different type of fluorescent bulbs are available.  So that got me to thinking if there are different types of fluorescent bulbs available, there must be some information on the subject.  I Googled.  Sure enough, there has been some research done on the subject of fluorescent tube bulbs. 

The Consumer Health Organization of Canada has an interesting article about all types of light, including fluorescent lights.  Apparently, there are some significant physiological changes that occur in the presence of standard fluorescent lighting.  Much of the light research work was pioneered by Dr. John Ott.  His research, and subsequent research revealed that school children suffered more stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and irritability under standard fluorescent lights, than under full spectrum lights.  Changing to full spectrum lights actually improved academic performance.  Other research has shown that office workers are similarly affected.

After reading these articles, I knew my hypothesis about my adverse reaction to the standard fluorescent tube lights wasn't totally nuts.  Unfortunately, a trip to Home Depot revealed that they carried no full spectrum tube lights that would fit our ballast.  So it was back to the research to study light bulb frequencies called "color temperature".  Apparently standard fluorescents, called cool-white have a color temperature of 4200 K; full spectrum lights have color temperature of 5,000-5,500 K; and Daylight bulbs--which were available at our local Home Depot--have a color-temperature of 6,500 K.   (Are your eyes crossing from reading this article yet?  Well, I'm just trying to earn the Versatile Blogger award that P. gave me!)  Apparently, there is another parameter to take into account called color-rendering, but by the time my mom and I got this far in our research our eyes were beginning to cross. 

My mom and I decided to try the fluorescent bulbs called "Daylight".  We replaced two of the four fluorescent tubes with the Daylight bulbs to see if it improved our mood.  I'm pleased to say that the two new bulbs really helped, and I see no reason to replace the remaining standard fluorescent bulbs.

Now, I've probably told you way more than you ever wanted to know on the subject, and I really didn't even begin to do the science justice.  In any case, I think the moral of this story is not to ignore your hunches no matter how bizarre they may seem.


  1. I agree! We purchased the more expensive daylight bulbs for our bathroom with no window, and it wasn't long before we did the same in 2 other rooms, one of them is the only other room without a window. We need the right lighting to brighten more than our day!!

  2. I am so glad that it has made a difference, and thanks I found that all really interesting. I didn't know all the tech details, but I do know that with my "daylight" flouros in the kitchen it feels much better. The bonus, my photos don't look too bad taken at night either.

  3. Well, you surely did your research...There must be truth in the matter, since colour in general can have an influence on your mood. Glad you could find an solution to your problem!

  4. Very interesting, Michelle. I haven't checked your links yet, but I wonder if my Ott sewing lamp is named after Dr. Ott?

  5. Michelle,

    Great post - now, I know where the Ott lamps probably got their name. :)

  6. I actually found that very interesting. I'm going to do a little research of my own because I replaced all the regular lightbulbs with those long-life florescent bulbs. I wonder if those fall into the same category as your florescent tubes. Glad you found a solution!

    xo -E

  7. Glad you tried out your experiment and got good results. Interesting info. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. My eyes didnt cross once while reading this - it was really interesting to find out all about it. Thank goodness I have removed the fluro's from the kitchen. I'm sure they'll find down lights make you crazy next.

  9. Thanks for sharing this info - very interesting. We need a new lamp over the kitchen counter, so most probably that will be a daylight tube...

  10. Work just came around and for the first time in 10-years, removed one half of the overhead florescent lights in the entire building to reduce "eye-strain."

    It was like someone rubbed the genie right out of the lamp.

    Work is more calm now :D


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