I'm a sucker for any article about priming my workspace for productivity. Every time I click one, it tells me the same thing. Put a plant on your desk, because nature. If you can't be trusted to keep a plant alive, even a picture of nature will do.
But here's a new nature-mimicking workspace hack that's new to me. Lighting that's as close as possible to natural sunlight. Sounds expensive, right? In fact, you need not even buy a new lamp. A simple light bulb swap seems like it'll do the trick.
Finding the right light
This evidence comes from a study that explored the effects of "warm light" and "cool light" on elementary school students. The study was published in the journal Optics Express.
South Korean researchers tested students' performance in classrooms equipped with LED lights whose red, green, blue, and white values could be tweaked. Most of the furniture in the room was white. The curtains were designed to completely block out sunlight. This design was meant to isolate the effects of the lighting as much as possible. Another group of students performed the same tests under standard fluorescent classroom lighting as a control (poor kids).
LED lights were set to three different correlated color temperatures: a warm, yellowish 3500K; a neutral 5000K; and a cool, bluish 6500K. Students did math tests under each type of lighting.
The students performed the worst under the neutral lighting. They performed the best and were more alert under the cool, blue lights. The researchers concluded that cool, blue lighting is best suited for intensive academic activities.
The good and bad sides of blue
This likely isn't the first time you've heard about blue light research. It's the same type of light that glows from your phone. And numerous neuroscientists warn it's terrible for sleep because it disrupts your circadian rhythm. That's why you're not supposed to look at your phone in bed.
But to improve cognitive function during the day, the results from the above study suggest blue light might be helpful. It's not the first study to come to this conclusion. The same factors that make blue light disruptive to sleep--it stimulates alertness and reduces drowsiness--are exactly what potentially make it great for improving focus.
But then it gets a bit more complicated. Blue light just before bed = bad for sleep. Blue light throughout the day = potentially good for sleep later.
"Results suggest that blue light spurs alertness and reduces sleepiness in ways that are detrimental to sleep at night but may be beneficial during waking hours, in improving daytime performance and reducing daytime fatigue," says clinical psychologist and sleep specialist Michael J. Breus. "What's more, this boost in daytime alertness and decrease in sleepiness may actually help improve sleep at bedtime."
Want to infuse your workday with a little bit more blue? A 6500K light bulb is just a few dollars on Amazon. Philips even has a fancy name for theirs: Daylight Deluxe.