Let there be light – especially when studying!
Often we underestimate the importance of good lighting in our study and workspaces. Here, we discuss the factors to consider when setting up the area in which you will be spending many an hour of revision time!
Clocks go back across the UK on October 25, after which it’s the season for Guy Fawkes, pumpkins and, if you’re a fan, Strictly Come Dancing. For some, it’s a time of grey, chilly, damp slog; others relish the cooler air, stunning foliage, and general cosiness.
But whatever your take on autumn, the nights are undeniably drawing in. And that may have more implications for your studying than you realised. More than ever, at this time of year it’s important – quite literally – to see things in a good light.
And while we might not think about it that often, the right lighting is crucial to effective working.
Some people experience SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) at this time of year. This is a persistent low mood brought on by the onset of the colder season. A lack of natural sunlight is a key factor behind this condition, and light therapy in the form of a special lamp or lightbox is one of the recommended treatments – the good news is that there are various options to help that don’t involve medication.
In this article, however, we’ll be considering the impact of poor lighting on studying and eyesight. After all, your mind may be razor-sharp and focused, but if your eyesight can’t keep up because of poor lighting, you will achieve less than your full potential.
A study by London City and Lund universities found that stronger ambient lighting boosted students’ performance in reading, writing, and maths. And the effect of decent illumination was particularly marked during the darker months.
So if your eyes are feeling tired and strained, read on (in a good light, of course). Particularly if you’re a natural night owl, there are many things you can do to optimise illumination and reduce visual fatigue.There are many things you can do to optimise illumination and reduce visual fatigue while studying. Click To Tweet
Tips for Better Illumination
- The best light is undoubtedly 100% natural daylight, so work in as much of it as you can – but avoid placing your desk right in the path of too much direct sunlight, or you may find it distractingly bright.
- Lighting should ideally be even, i.e. it ought not to hit your desk from just one direction.
- Experiment with different bulbs and set-ups to see what works best for you – it’s a case of trial and error.
- A warm or yellow-orange glow that’s similar to a sunrise or sunset could help first thing in the morning or at nightfall; equally, you may benefit from whiter illumination during the day. A warmer tone in the evening may even help you enjoy a better quality of sleep. This is known as getting the ‘colour temperature’ of your lighting right – we’ve all heard how the blue glow of screens keeps you awake at night, for instance – and you can get apps such as f.lux which help with this, as well as bulbs with adjustable colour temperature.
- Try to create layered lighting with, for example, a focused desk lamp combined with gentler overhead illumination.
- It’s always worth investing in a good lamp. Choose a desk light that’s flexible enough for you to adjust shadows, glares, and reflections. If you want to fit a bulb that changes the colour temperature, make sure your lamp can take that before you buy it.
- As far as possible, reduce shadows by using multiple light sources; otherwise, the contrast could be too harsh on your eyes when you glance away into darker spaces.
- A lux is a unit that measures how intensely light hitting a surface is, and it’s equal to one lumen per square metre (a lumen simply refers to the light source’s brightness). As a general guide, aim for 300 to 500 lux for your study area, 500 to 1,000 lux for your ordinary desk work, or higher if you’re working on detailed drawings or diagrams.
Finally, while we hate to nag, remember that the NHS recommends sight tests every couple of years. This will not only tell you whether you need a fresh prescription or different glasses, but at the same time, it will check your peepers for a variety of possible underlying health conditions. The trouble is that eyes often don’t hurt even if something is wrong. So it’s easily put off. But it simply isn’t worth leaving more than the recommended two years between check-ups. And, obviously, go sooner if you’re experiencing persistent problems.