Tuesday, October 19

Lighting: what should be the ideal lamp for reading and studying?


The best light for reading and studying is natural light. Therefore, whenever possible, it is advisable for these tasks to take advantage of sunlight, although not directly – since its intensity can be very high and cause annoying reflections – but obliquely, filtered by a curtain or reflected. by a wall.

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But it is clear that a good part of our lives takes place in spaces or moments in which it is necessary to resort to artificial light. In those cases, what are the most appropriate lamps and lights for reading and studying?

Well, there are several factors that must be taken into account to procure the most appropriate lighting for such activities. Some of the most important are the following:

  • The lighting must be as homogeneous as possible, cover a wide area and be stable, without sudden changes in intensity.
  • As far as possible, the light has to be zenith, that is to say, come from above. In any case, it is important that its reflection on the reading surface does not directly affect the eyes of the reader. A simple method to check the direction of this reflection is to place a mirror on the page being read.
  • It is recommended that the light comes from the opposite side of the person’s skillful hand. This is: for right-handed people, let the light come from their left side; for lefties, it comes from the right. This is so that when underlining, taking notes or doing other activities the hand does not cast a shadow on the observed surface.
  • It is appropriate that the main source of light for reading is a lamp with an articulated arm and an adjustable head, to find the most convenient position in each case. And also that allows to regulate the intensity and temperature of the light.

Importance of light temperature

Beyond these general considerations, there are some technical aspects related to the type of light that are worth keeping in mind. Especially in the case of people who have to spend many hours illuminated by it.

One of the most important is given by the temperature of the light. Depending on this parameter, there are basically three types of light: cold, neutral and warm. The cold ones are white or bluish, while the warm ones are yellowish or reddish tones. The neutral ones, of course, those that are halfway between the two.

Various scientific studies have shown that cold lights promote attention and concentration, while warm lights help relaxation and rest.

Various scientific studies have shown that cold lights promote attention and concentration, while warm lights help relaxation and rest.

Researchers from South Korea analyzed, in 2016, the academic performance of elementary school children exposed to cold, neutral or warm lights depending on the activity they were doing: white for academic activities, warm for moments of leisure and recreation.

Then they compared these results with those of other children, who worked – as usual – always with the same kind of light. The job found that the type of light influenced their results: the students in the first group had better school performance.

A similar conclusion was also reached by scientists from the United Kingdom, in a investigation of 2015 that not only analyzed the lighting conditions but also the temperature, noise and air quality.

Therefore, the most appropriate lights for reading and studying would be the whitest or coolest. The unit in which the temperature of light is measured is the kelvin (k). Lights are considered cool when they are 5,000 Kelvin or more. The warm lights are below 3,300 k.

However, it is important to consider another factor: cold light is similar to natural light, and exposure to it can reduce the secretion of melatonin by the brain, which is naturally used to perceiving less light as it is night approaches. As a consequence, cold light can affect the quality of your sleep.

That is why it is advisable for the reading lamp to regulate the temperature of the light: to read in the last hours of the day, a warmer light is advisable (for the same reason why it is recommended to stop using computer screens and telephones at least half an hour before going to bed).

To read in the last hours of the day, a warmer light is convenient, for the same reason why it is recommended to stop using computer screens and telephones at least half an hour before going to bed.

Other technical aspects of lighting

There are other technical light issues to pay attention to. One of them is the so-called color rendering index (CRI), which measures – on a scale from 0 to 100 – the ability of each type of light to allow the human eye to see “real” colors, that is, those that go in the sunlight.

Although this ability to see the “real” colors seems optimal in all cases, in general it is not too important a factor for reading or study. And since higher CRI levels can cause distraction and eyestrain, looking for lamps with a low index is recommended for these activities.

Another element that must be taken into account is the total amount of visible light that a lamp emits. That luminous flux is measured in lumens, and the amount of lumens per square meter generated by a light source is measured in a unit called lux.

Well, for reading it is estimated that the appropriate is between 400 and 500 lux. A smaller amount would imply “low light” and the need to strain the eyes more than necessary, while a higher amount would represent a light that is too bright, which could represent annoyance.

For reading, it is estimated that the appropriate thing is between 400 and 500 lux; a lower amount would imply “low light” and the need to strain the eyes more than necessary.

Ultimately, then, the most appropriate lamps and lights for reading are cold ones (except in the last hours of the day, when they should be rather warm), with low CRI and with a medium amount of light.

It must be borne in mind that inadequate lighting cannot only cause visual fatigue, headache and other damage related to sight. It can also cause the person, unconsciously, to adopt unhealthy body postures, with the negative effects derived in turn from this action.

For the rest, it is important to remember that we do not notice all these technical aspects with the naked eye, since the brain adapts to each situation and makes us perceive the different types of light in a similar way. But it is a job that our body must carry out, in the same way that photographic or video cameras do a “white balance”.

Consequently, the better the lighting conditions are adapted to the task at hand, the less effort will be required. And, as a result, the wear and tear on the body will also be less and the satisfaction and well-being obtained will be greater.

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