Detective Note

Vol.056 – Lighting and Sleep


Interviewer: Erina Hosono

Hosono: This might be out of the blue, but the reason I wanted to become a lighting designer is because lighting helped get my chronic problems with sleeping under control. Whether it is narcolepsy or insomnia, I want to help people with sleep problems. So, today, I thought we could talk about lighting that might be of use in tackling sleeping issues.

Mende: What kind of sleeping disorder do you have?

Hosono: I was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia. While I was studying or eating or even walking down the street, I would be spasmodically overcome with abnormal sleepiness. For 15 years, I lived with these problematic symptoms. I even went to study in the US so I could get certain therapeutic medicine.
Mende: Do you still have problems?
Hosono: Now, I am able to live just like a regular person.

Mende: Do you have a system so that it becomes really bright in the morning in your room?

Hosono: PhI use the Wake-up Light by Philips. It mimics the time and operations of the sun, becoming very bright to wake me up. I also have three other decorative lights; all equipped with the Philips hue smart lamp. This smart lamp also works as an alarm and becomes bright. One of the decorative lights is a large free-standing floor lamp and the shade is situated right above my pillow so I can feel the light rays directly on my body as I am woken up.

While I was studying in the US, I started using just one of these alarms, wake up lights, but I experienced such a pleasant feeling waking up, not felt up until then, that I started placing the smart hue lamps all over my room. When I had to stay awake for studying or something, I used to forcibly wake myself up using the built-in flashlight on my smartphone or burying my face in a portable x-ray lightbox that I borrowed; which aren`t particularly healthy uses of light.

Mende: There are several methods and treatments using light for people with similar pathologies. In Scandinavia daylight is very short in the winter months and many people become psychologically unstable leading to many suicides. For all living things, quality living conditions usually implies an area where the sunrises for a time of daylight and the sunsets for a time of darkness. For you, even now, if the sun doesn’t rise you can’t wake up on your own, right?! Even on some outrageous international flights, many people can’t wake up. I think I am lucky since I can trick myself into sleeping and waking up anywhere.

Hosono: I am very jealous.

Mende: As your body temperature rises from the time of waking, you use up all of your energy throughout the day, becoming tired, a natural sedative which makes you sleepy at night. However, in modern times, most people do not hold jobs that require you to keep your body active and in turn, naturally become tired. It is a bad cycle. The best solution is to be able to naturally fall asleep. I always seem to be a little sleepy. Maybe that is why I am not affected by jet lag…or maybe I am just constantly jet-lagged?! I seem to be able to sleep in very noisy places, dark places, even bright places. Differences in Individual sleep patterns are very intense!

Hosono: What do you think a person who can`t sleep should do to fall into a deep, peaceful sleep?

Mende: A while back I held an exhibit titled, “Lighting Design.” One exhibit I thought of was a simple projector displaying images of sheep on the ceiling. One sheep, two sheep…and so on. “Lighting to fall asleep” seems like a parody, but it seemed to stick in my head. Then, while watching the sheep, you start thinking they are cute and other nonsense and stress levels seem to ease and you fall asleep.

It might work with a campfire, too. The sun sets, darkness sets in, one by one the stars come out. This might be worth a try, too.

Hosono: They both sound nice.

Mende: I am always saying, learn from natural light. Since ancient times, an important element of natural drowsiness is fade time. Gradual closer, not a snap closer. Also a combination of 1/f fluctuation, or pink noise, and natural light in certain situations can cause natural drowsiness and wakefulness.

Hosono: Every night at the same time in my room the color temperature and lux level of the hue smart lamp is set to gradually fade out over a timeframe of 30 minutes. Originally, I don’t have any ceiling lights in my home, so it is very relaxing.

Mende: To get a good night’s rest it is also important to do a good day’s work. Work hard to tire your body, maybe even sweat a little, and limit stress; this will help relieve any fogginess in your head. The bottom line is it is important to live an ecological and comfortable life based on your own rhythm and style.