The Critical Distinctions Between Full-Spectrum Bulbs & “Daylight Bulbs”

While they may seem the same to those not in the know, full-spectrum bulbs and daylight bulbs have a number of differences. Here’s some information on each type of bulb and how they are different. Also we confirm the health benefits of daylight lamps and light filters.

The Critical Differences Between Full Spectrum Bulbs and Daylight Bulbs

Color Differences in Daylight Bulbs and Full Spectrum Bulbs

Daylight Bulbs

One of the main ways people tend to identify and label light bulbs is equal to their “color temperature.”

This doesn’t refer to the actual temperature of a bulb.

Instead, it’s referring to the color light output. So, for example, full-spectrum lights that fall in the “warm” part of the category are giving off more yellow light.

In contrast, “cool” lights have more of a blue or white color. This means that bulbs that are just labeled “daylight” tend to have more blues in their color makeup, as that’s what we associate with them.

In fact, many of the LED bulbs in the “daylight” category dump much of the accuracy of their coloring in order to get more brightness and efficiency. Daylight means trying to get closer to the color temperature and spectrum of natural sunlight.

All this is to say that daylight bulbs often don’t remind you very much of daylight at all. It’s not full-spectrum white light at all, and your body will notice the difference.

Full Spectrum Light Bulbs

In contrast, full-spectrum bulbs use filters to copy all of the colors of the white light from the sun.

“Full-spectrum” refers to the visible spectrum of light. Different wavelengths of light appear to us as different colors. The visible spectrum ranges from long wavelengths (reds) at one side of the scale to shorter wavelengths (blues) at the other end.

Wavelengths of light get refracted differently as they travel through our atmosphere at different angles, making the light appear warmer at times or cooler at others.

Full-spectrum bulbs mimic natural light by emitting the same wavelengths of light as those that reach us from the sun’s light spectrum.

Some Important Differences: CRI

One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to analyzing light bulbs is something called the Color Rendering Index. This is a way of measuring how accurately the light renders the colors of the objects it’s bouncing off of when compared to how well natural or “perfect” light would do it. The CRI is not the same

For example, many “daylight” bulbs only have a CRI of about 80%, indicating a substantial gap between how objects should look in terms of color and how they do when using the bulb. In contrast, full-spectrum lights can trend towards some of the best possible CRI numbers at around 96%. Natural sunlight as a color rendering index of 100. It’s important to consider the CRI and the color temperature when evaluating a light source.

Better than Full Spectrum Bulbs

Light covers that turn ordinary bulbs into full-spectrum light.

See Full-Spectrum Light Filters

Full-Spectrum Bulbs: Benefits

Good lighting is just one of those things that can help you break out of funks.

Full-spectrum light has the following known benefits on humans who use them:


Seasonal Affective Disorder:

There’s evidence to suggest that full-spectrum light can improve your mood in general. It also helps those with illnesses like Seasonal Affective Disorder. So, people who suffer from depression in the winter because of reduced daylight can benefit from the full spectrum.

SAD Light Filters

Light covers that create all-day sunlight.

More about SAD Light Filters

It’s also been shown that full-spectrum light sources can help people avoid depression. Good lighting is just one of those things that can help you break out of funks. This is exactly why professionals recommend that those with depression go get a little sunlight outside. While this is not always possible, it is nearly always possible to get light from a full-spectrum source.

Mood Benefits:

Some studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have also indicated that full-spectrum light sources actually do have real psychological benefits for some people. Many people just outright feel better under daylight, and nothing creates a simulation of daylight quite like full-spectrum lighting. It can create what’s called a “positive affect,” or a feeling of happiness.

Aiding Recovery from Sleep Disorders:

It’s a fact that light has a huge effect on how well we sleep. So, in situations where people have insomnia or other troubles with sleep, being around full-spectrum lighting can make it so that your body produces melatonin and serotonin on its own to aid in getting you to sleep. This is significant since it means that your body is producing these aids on its own. Exposure to full-spectrum light is a way to produce melatonin to get to sleep naturally without taking a supplement.

Natural, healthy sleep has a hugely positive effect on your life. According to sleep statistics, 79% of Americans don’t receive the seven hours they need. This means that just about everyone could use help from full-spectrum lights. Part of the reason is exposure to high levels of blue light from screened devices.

Vision Improvements:

Some evidence suggests that full-spectrum lighting aids in pupil constriction, making it easier for you to see deeper and get a better sense of what you are seeing. There is also reason to believe that with a better ability to focus your pupils and thus your eyes in general, you can read more easily, more quickly, and with less of that blurry defocusing effect.

General Anxiety:

There are also studies to suggest that full-spectrum light exposure to humans helps them feel less stress. According to Dr. Hollwich, full-spectrum light helps you to produce a significantly smaller amount of the stress hormone, cortisol.

This hormone is associated with agitation and anxiety. Producing less of it due to being around full-spectrum light results in a significant calming effect. Obviously, treating generalized anxiety is going to help just about every aspect of your life.


Studies from doctors including Richard Stevens indicate full-spectrum light may have applications in helping to prevent diseases such as breast cancer. Since it’s so common to be in an environment that pulls back your production of melatonin and natural sleep, this also creates a greater risk of cancer.

Fortunately, full-spectrum bulbs make it so that you can produce your own melatonin and avoid this risk.

Other Possible Benefits of Full Spectrum Lighting

Beyond the big benefits that matter the most, there are a few other ones that are also rather interesting and beneficial. A study from RPI suggests that they include the following couple of potential points:

  1. Improving Retail Sales: Obviously, this is going to matter to those in the business more than others. However, it’s certainly a potential benefit and a serious difference between full-spectrum bulbs and daylight bulbs. Plus, as long as you don’t go too overboard, shopping can be a positive experience for a lot of people. Good lighting just makes you feel like living more.
  2. More Plant Growth: Those who have a green thumb or just love being around nature know the importance of light. Some claims even say that plant growth increases when they have better light sources. At the very least, plants are universally sensitive to light.
  3. Better Vitamin D Processing: Sunlight is one of the ways that people are able to produce vitamin D in the body. Some say that even simulated sunlight from full-spectrum bulbs is close enough to real sunlight that it allows the body to synthesize vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for health, so this would be a substantial benefit.
  4. Various Other Claims:  Some say that it can help with reducing tooth decay, improving productivity, and even makes for better academic performance in students.

There is some controversy about each of these theorized benefits, but there are certainly many people who swear by them.

Natural Lighting with out a Full Spectrum Bulb

Light Boxes

Some people use light therapy boxes, which are small units with an embedded full spectrum light bulb as a light source. The produce an intense daylight blast of light from LED bulbs, with a spectrum containing blue, yellow and red light. Portability is an advantage compared to a full spectrum bulb, and they are often used by those with seasonal affective disorder for light therapy treatment.

Light boxes can be pricey and yet low quality. As a light source for daylight it also comes with the cost increase energy usage.

Indoor Light Filters For Offices & Classrooms

If you want daylight in your workplace for the health benefits provided by the sun, consider natural light filters like NaturaLux. They are permanent, full spectrum lighting solution to provide full spectrum lighting using your existing bulbs, lamps and fixtures. NaturaLux fixes the light spectrum at the light source, providing the highest quality natural lighting possible.

Natural light with light filters can transform your lighting by manipulating the color temperature from your bulbs to create a perfectly lit environment. The high quality daylight helps with mood and energy while decreasing glare that can cause headaches. And unlike light therapy boxes, requires no additional energy or additional light source. Even office plants will thrive!

Summing Up

The only thing a golfer needs is more daylight.

-Ben Hogan

Daylight is just one of those things that affects human beings in a deep way. It’s in poetry and stories of all kinds, going back for millennia. Daylight represents our hopes for life and happiness, our ability to understand what’s around us, and our ability to feel safe, calm, and content.

Writing down all the quotes about daylight that humans have uttered would be impossible since there are so many of them. There is a reason we often use it as a metaphor for hope and life. Humans rely on our eyes, and without light, we are at a severe disadvantage.

The Importance of Full-Spectrum Bulbs

This dependence on sunlight is exactly why having lights that are as close to actual, real sunlight as possible is so important.

Getting confused by a false moniker like “daylight” bulbs is going to lead you in the wrong direction. Instead, full-spectrum light will have all of the colors and appearance of real sunlight. You can access it whenever you need it, instead of whenever you have access to sunlight, which can be quite limited in northern climates in the winter, for example.

As long as you have an approximation of sunlight, you will often also have calm, clarity, and clarity of vision. It is an excellent remedy for many more conditions than most people realize, provided you have the full-spectrum variety. It’s easy to obtain, and you’ll be happy you did with more health, happiness, and focus.


Make Great Light (SAD and filters)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (NLPIP Volume 7 Issue 5) (light benefits)

SleepPhones (sleep stats) (Dr. Hollowich)

ACS Journals (breast cancer)

2 thoughts on “The Critical Distinctions Between Full-Spectrum Bulbs & “Daylight Bulbs””

  1. Okay, just to clarify a small point, you need to say “long waves”, not “large waves”, and “short waves”, not “small waves”.
    Too long on the beach today!.


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