Light Therapy for Mental Healthcare – June 2021 Newsletter

Dutch researchers bring light therapy for mental health into public view. A promising development in a public mental healthcare system shows bipolar disorder sufferers can integrate multi-modal treatment, including light therapy, while potentially helping to improve societal acceptance regarding mood disorders.

Even when some niche applications of solid-state lighting (SSL) are not, strictly speaking, highly commercialized, the potential for enriching lives with technology that addresses health and wellbeing can bring huge returns to society on a grander scale.

For example, we might consider mental health, which impacts just about everyone on this ball of rock. If we want to get mercenary about it, untreated or unstabilized mental health conditions can significantly strain healthcare systems and economies, when sufferers are not well enough to work consistently. On the compassionate level, such conditions can reduce human wellbeing so severely…well, I think we are all aware of the potential consequences on a scale of detriments.

But I mean to uplift! While attending a webinar called “Good Light – Good Life” hosted by the Good Light Group in celebration of UNESCO’s International Day of Light 2021, I listened to a talk on light therapy within the public healthcare system in the Netherlands. Let me be clear here: This blog is not a summary overview of the existing body of research; it is merely a sharing and commentary on the themes contained within a presentation made on May 11.

For quick background, the Good Light Group is a non-profit advocacy organisation launched by former Philips Lighting executive Jan Denneman to refocus research, commercialization, and public education on human-centric lighting into a concept he has called “nutritive lighting.”

As I was saying, speaker Lisette Rops is a psychiatrist, head of the department of bipolar disorder and head of the department of light and lifestyle treatment at GGzE, which is the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care.

Rops summarized the relationship between the human biological clock or circadian rhythm and several types of mental health conditions, mood disorders, and neurological diseases. The biological clock can dictate healing, and it prioritizes overall body repairs on a schedule, as well as stimulating the production of various hormones and chemical receptors, she said. One thing the GGzE team found that has been corroborated by other studies devoted to productivity and melatonin production is that very bright light in the morning hours has been of great value in treating affective disorders, in this case bipolar disorder.

You’re wondering what’s unusual enough to dedicate an entire blog to this. Light therapy has already been investigated for seasonal affective disorder and other mood/affective disorders, in one case, as we reported, involving installed tunable area lighting in a Norwegian clinic.

Here is the kicker. Unlike most light therapy studies and clinical data-driven lighting installations, the designed treatment has been carried out in a public venue.

Teams of doctors through GGzE would recommend the light therapy approach to patients who met the set criteria through a questionnaire. The qualifying patients received about 30 minutes of light therapy a day, five days per week, in a public café equipped with light therapy boxes that delivered light levels of 10,000 lx without ultraviolet radiation. At the “LichtCafé,” which is currently being run at the Grand Café Het Ketelhuis, referred patients can enjoy the atmosphere of the coffee shop, read, or socialize while they sit at the light therapy station during set morning hours. According to Rops and the translated LichtCafé brochure, the light output can be compared to that of bright morning sunshine.

Rops stated that a patient cannot be in a hypomanic or manic state during the treatment, as it could have the undesired effect of overstimulation, but it has shown positive results for those in a depressive state. With few and well-tolerated side effects, participants in the initial study experienced remission rate of 33% and no manic episodes. (It’s my understanding that 59 people participated in the early study.) They attended the café for three weeks of treatment and completed the QIDS (Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology) before and after every week of the treatment. Rops said according to a July 2020 survey, client satisfaction rate was 8.2 out of 10. And LichtCafé served nearly 400 clients between 2019–2020.

Rops’ message was one of optimism and underlined that multiple quality of life factors, or “zeitgebers,” optimized the participants’ ability to manage their bipolar disorder:

  • Light
  • Sleep
  • Daytime routine (consistency of schedules has shown to be helpful during treatment)
  • Physical activity
  • Nutrition
  • Social activity

All of these factors, she explained, were addressed by lifestyle coaches and dieticians in consultation with the study team and associated clinicians. The studies and designed therapy were carried out in a manner to normalize the public awareness and treatment of bipolar disorder, while meeting the participants’ need for social activity, especially because they can have difficulty connecting with people and even leaving the home during a depressive episode.

Reproduced with permission from LED Magazine.

When I was preparing to write for this newsletter, I cast my mind back to my school days, sitting in the Latin class and reading some of the great writings of Socrates.  It was Socrates, in his thesis, who wrote “Virtue is knowledge”  and it is believed that the saying that “Knowledge is Power” which is often incorrectly ascribed to “Sir Francis Bacon in his published work Meditationes Sacrae (1597). It is also significant that my old school motto is “Palma Virtuti” which as translated by the school means “Reward is to the brave” but it also translates as “Reward to the virtuous” which also indicates respect for those who have virtue and knowledge.

I do believe that anyone who strives to become an expert and be respected in their profession, should continuously study and read to gain more knowledge. Gaining knowledge has a start but no end as long as we are living and able.

To achieve that goal which should be the garland awarded to a prize-winner, one should make time to study and read.  Tendering excuses achieves nothing except to make a statement: “I think I know it all!”

Let me make a statement: “No matter how much I know now, no matter how expert others may think I am, I DO NOT know it all, I still have loads to learn to keep up to date with technology, the science of lighting and lighting design practise.  Science, technology, products all relentlessly continue developing.  Our understanding about human vision and its relationship to light and similarly, light’s influence on human physiology and light for the well being of humans, is still the subject of on-going research.

It is so exciting to work in the field of lighting at my “young” age.  It is my sincere desire that all who are associated with light and lighting within both the build and the lighting environments and industry appreciate this and take up my challenge to read a lot more (in addition to novels and other material) and to start studying.  To study does not essentially mean that I am suggesting that it should be with the BHA School of Lighting, but through any institution or organisation who offer you further education.  Of course, we welcome all to enrol for any of the courses that we offer.

I appreciate more than most that time is precious and that there simply are not enough hours in a day to be able to achieve all that I want to do.

We teach our students to make use of the amazing and powerful technique called Mind-Mapping.  The technique involves drawing “spiders” with several extensions to each leg, each culminating in an image or word which forms a trigger to recall all of the information when required to do so, either in the work environment or when writing an examination.  The human brain is phenomenal.  It has the ability to store enormous amounts of data.  The problem that humans have is knowing how to recall some data when it is required.  That is why the triggers to recall  used in Mind-Mapping are so critically important. For example, students of our Advanced Diploma in Illumination Engineering course complete 18 modules during their first year.  A single mind-map should be prepared for each module.  This means that in effect when it is time to write the first year examinations, all that they need to revise are 18 Mind-Maps, each with their own respective triggers to recall the content to be able to answer the questions.  It serves absolutely no purpose to read the same written or printed notes over and over.

I use this technique for everything that I do such as when planning an article for a magazine, planning or revising the content for the modules of any course, preparing the webinar content flow for the presentation or when preparing for a virtual meeting with clients, private or group lessons.

Think back to your school or university days, do you remember the copious notes that you took?  What good use did they really serve?  Do you remember hours of cramming, burning the midnight oil before the examinations?  Mind-Maps are phenomenal once the technique has been mastered.  They are so fantastic that we give the students who enrol for the Advanced Diploma course, an additional month to spend learning and mastering the technique before they commence the course proper.  No additional cost is added to the course cost.

If any of our readers would like more information on Mind-Mapping and our courses, you are welcome to contact me.  It will most certainly make it much easier for you to ensure that you too can claim that “Knowledge is Power” for yourself!

We would like to welcome the following new students to BHA School of Lighting

  • Nina Smeda, N-Studio, Stellenbosch – BHASL001C20: Foundation Lighting Course
  • Katherine Stead,Q-Lite, Durban – BHASL003C19: Advanced Diploma in Illumination Engineering Course
  • Olga Timoshkova, Minsk, Belarus – BHASL002C20: Primary Lighting Course
  • Brett Urquhart, Lighting Revolution, Cape Town – BHASL003C19: Advanced Diploma in Illumination Engineering Course

Happy Birthday to the following students celebrating their Birthdays this month of June! We hope you all have a memorable day!

  • Charne-Lee Ginning, Australia – 2 June
  • Mia Koster, Windhoek, Namibia – 6 June
  • Irish Frederick, Cape Town – 9 June
  • Peter Venter, Johannesburg – 9 June
  • Bertus Esterhuysen, Witbank – 12 June
  • Daemian Mare, Durban –  17 June
  • Ayanda Mavundla, Pretoria – 21 June
  • Leon Strydom, Centurion – 24 June
  • John-Eric Hall, Brakpan – 29 June

Our congratulations go out to Dr Renske Snyman, Cape Town – who graduated from the Advanced Diploma in Illumination Engineering Course on 29 May 2021.

We wish you every success now that you have a new string to your bow, Illumination Engineer.

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The Institution of Lighting Professionals UK (The ILP)
Annual General Meeting virtual meeting 16 June 2021 from 10:30 BST or 09:30 SAST.  All Student Members are encouraged to REGISTER and attend.
Young Lighting Professionals are hosting a Live Event where Two expert planners talk about Light and Dark Skies
Highlights virtual session on Moday 28 June from 13:00 BST or 14:00 SAST.  Student Members can REGISTER here

The Illumination Engineering Society of South Africa (IESSA)
IESSA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA).

The International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD)
IALD UK Presents: Performance Lighting for Architectural Applications on 2 June 2021. It will be presented by Award winning lighting designer Christopher Knowlton, IALD, MSLL who is co-founder of London based independent lighting design studio, 18 degrees.  All IALD Student Members are encouraged to attend.  Contact for the link to access the event.


CP Electronics, a brand of Legrand, launches a DALI-based control system to schedule flexible dimming and color temperature changes for dynamic lighting in a variety of environments.

CP Electronics, a brand of Legrand, launches Circadian Lighting Control as part of its enhanced RAPID lighting control system. RAPID is a comprehensive fully addressable network system that combines the very latest technology, modular mechanics and an easy-to-use graphical interface. Circadian Lighting Control falls under the category of human centric lighting, which is defined as lighting devoted to enhancing human performance, comfort, health and wellbeing.

Light is one of the biggest influences on our circadian rhythm, the natural sleep/wake cycles of the human body. It is now accepted that strategically designed lighting systems have the power to affect both our visual and non-visual systems and that electric light can impact circadian rhythm. The concept of circadian lighting follows that of the human circadian rhythm, a 24-hour internal clock. The area of the brain called the hypothalamus controls each person’s circadian rhythm by receiving signals from the eyes that report when it’s daytime and night time. The hypothalamus, in turn, controls the amount of melatonin released to correlate sleepiness with darkness and alertness with lightness.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of CP Electronics.

CP Electronics’ RAPID Circadian Lighting Control uses DALI protocol to control the light fixtures based on time events that control the brightness and colour temperature throughout the day. Warmer colour temperature scenes are generally understood to offer a more casual feel whilst cooler brighter lighting can boost alertness. The overall desired influence of the colour temperature of the light is likely to be different depending on the application, and likely to change utilising the latest discoveries from the continuing research of the benefits of human centric lighting. Whether it be a static scene, a flowing change or even a repeating day to night cycle, the flexibility that the RAPID lighting control system offers gives the user the power to develop as they learn.

Different facilities and different users require a variety of options, for example care homes for mental wellbeing or health recovery centres will require different cycles from an industrial or research laboratory building which may have different day/night cycles, or office environments like financial markets where high efficiency 24-hour output is required. Some facilities prefer to boost alertness in some zones whilst programming others to offer a better atmosphere in which both can co-exist in the same building. Again central control for fast response to the feedback of the occupants is crucial and this is something that standalone event controllers cannot offer.

Whilst the colour and mood are determined by the Circadian Lighting Control event scheduler, the local presence detectors can still be co-ordinated to switch off at times of no occupancy and thereby get the best results from people-friendly lighting balanced with good energy control. Interruptions to the Circadian Lighting Control system may be needed for maintenance, unexpected events or just personal preference. These interruptions can be made by using the switch input override facility. This facility allows simple overrides to the brightness and colour temperature for each lighting group within the pre-set zones.

The RAPID lighting control system benefits from an architecture of de-centralised intelligence, meaning each component will continue to operate as best it can in the event of a failure to any of the other components.  If the front end software disconnected for any reason, the system will continue with its programmed Circadian Lighting Control cycle, making the system as resilient as it can be. Adjustment of the system is intuitive and convenient as it is embedded with the standard RAPID front end software. Varying control can be achieved within specifically assigned areas via scheduler units that provide circadian event control to light output groups within any lighting control module.

Human Centric Lighting is complex and still developing so there is no set formula and different set-ups work for different people. The key is to have an easy to control interface that one can adjust as one learns. An easily adjustable interface means a fast response to make changes according to the feedback of the occupants, which is key to the success of human centric lighting control.

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