Navigating 2019 — Three trends to anticipate with circadian lighting

March 1, 2019
Guest blogger Robert Soler of BIOS Lighting predicts how circadian science will help human-centric lighting design take hold in the coming year.

With the 2018 Strategies Unlimited LED market forecast reporting that global indoor luminaire revenue alone will represent over $70 billion by 2022, the solid-state lighting (SSL) industry is experience massive growth on a national and global scale, with significant traction in human-centric applications. Although current LED lighting has unprecedented energy efficiency, we’re still illuminating our homes with more light at night. These bright light signals at night play a major role in our mental and physical health, as light is the key synchronizer of circadian rhythm. As a result, there’s been an industry shift to developing circadian LED lighting to account for the immense impact light has on physiology.

While the lighting design community heavily embraced circadian lighting in 2018, most of these human-centric lighting designs will not be implemented until this year, or the next. Thus, 2019 will be a transformative year for circadian lighting as it addresses the following three trends.

The end of skepticism

The biggest challenge with circadian lighting traditionally is skepticism. Lighting overall is highly undervalued, from both a design standpoint and a biological effects standpoint. Luckily, there is culminated evidence that circadian disruption leads to a whole host of increased health risks, such as risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, and mental health issues such as attention deficit disorders, insomnia, bipolar disorder and depression.1–4 With a growing understanding that the effects of circadian disruption are more prevalent in today’s society because of our time indoors, designers, manufacturers, and consumers alike are starting to realize that our indoor environment is not providing the benefits we need.

Pinnacle Fixtures illuminated by BIOS. (Photo credit: Pinnacle Architectural Lighting.)

Social jet lag

A recent study shows5 that more than 87% of standard-day working people (9:00 AM–5:00 PM) have some form of “social jet lag,” a term used to describe the issues that arise from irregular sleeping patterns including fatigue, psychological stress, and poor health. In the next year, social jet lag will be exacerbated by the fact that current LED spectra can stimulate nonvisual photoreceptors, which will in turn further expose us to physiological risks when we spend time in poorly-lit or overly-bright settings (bars, concerts, movie theaters, etc.). It is tremendously important to focus on the sky-blue photoreceptor specifically in an effort to combat social jet lag and help create environments that positively impact our mental and physical health.

Preventing the domino effect

Once implemented, circadian lighting can positively change our mood, energy levels, and overall wellbeing. But those who overlook the value of lighting can tip the first domino into circadian dysfunction, which comes with a myriad of consequences. If unaddressed, short-term consequences that we’d see from poor lighting include increased fatigue, inability to concentrate or focus, difficulty retaining information, poor nighttime sleep, and increased appetite. The long-term consequences of continuing to work or live under poor lighting could be more severe. As previously mentioned, this includes increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, metabolic issues, cardiovascular issues, attention deficits, insomnia, bipolar disorder and certain cancers.

With further research that continues to expose the physiological impact of lighting, the increased prevalence of social jet lag, and urgency to resolve interrelated health conditions, LED lighting will have to balance energy efficiency with biological impact. I believe the next wave of lighting technology will focus on integrating energy efficiency with spectrum optimization for better human-centric lighting design. And, technology will continue to follow scientific findings that expose the impact of poor lighting. In five years, expect to see lights automatically adjust to individual biological needs in real time and bring us into a new phase of circadian lighting.


1. S. Reutrakul and K.L. Knutson, “Consequences of circadian disruption on cardiometabolic health,” Sleep Med. Clin. 10, 455–468, 2015.

2. T. Roenneberg, K.V. Allebrandt, M. Merrow, and C. Vetter, “Social jetlag and obesity,” Curr. Biol. 22, 939–943, 2012.

3. A.V. Nedeltcheva and F.A. Scheer, “Metabolic effects of sleep disruption, links to obesity and diabetes,” Curr. Opin. Endocrinol. Diabetes Obes. 21, 293–298, 2014.

4. P.M. Wong, B.P. Hasler, T.W. Kamarck, M.F. Muldoon, and S.B. Manuck, “Social jetlag, chronotype, and cardiometabolic risk,” J. Clin. Endocrinol. and Metabolism 100 (12), 4612–4620, 2015.

5. T. Roenneberg and M. Merrow, “The circadian clock and human health,” Curr. Biol. 26(10), R432–R443, 2016.

Get to know our expert

ROBERT SOLER is vice president of research at BIOS Lighting where he leads the human biological technologies and research. Prior to his work with BIOS, his most prominent work was with Kennedy Space Center, where he helped design and build the first LED light for use on the International Space Station (ISS) and collaborated with scientists to use LED light for photobiological purposes in space. Soler’s years of experience as an electrical and lighting engineer have led him to become an inventor of 73 issued patents in the US. He has authored several published papers on light and its use for air and water disinfection and for human health benefits, with an emphasis on its use in spaceflight applications. After his work at NASA and before joining BIOS, Soler led the research team in the development of the ISS photobiologically-corrected white light that is responsible for circadian entrainment of astronauts and the spectrally tunable adaptable light that manipulates spectrum based on its surrounding environment. He holds a Master of Science degree from the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the premier master’s level graduate degree offered in the lighting field, and is finishing a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego.

Editor’s note: Sapphire Awards recognizes human-centric lighting technology

Please join us in congratulating BIOS Lighting on the company’s Sapphire Award win for the BIOS Bio-dimming LED module technology in the Lighting for Health and Wellbeing category. As we continue to see expansion of the LED and SSL industry’s knowledge base on the application of light with science-backed methods, we expect to see more contributions to the market that will enable manufacturers, lighting designers, specifiers, and other stakeholders to deliver intelligent solutions to improve human health and wellbeing, especially with regard to the circadian impacts that Soler discusses in this blog. You can check out the full list of 2019 Sapphire Award winners from our breaking news announcement, and be on the lookout for more in-depth coverage on the winning Illumineer of the Year and products in our March issue. Subscribe to LEDs Magazine to get additional insights and technical features delivered to your inbox. — Carrie Meadows, Associate Editor, LEDs Magazine