Why Do Fluorescent Lights Make You Feel Weird?

So you started working full-time in an office a few weeks ago. And are already experiencing increasing problems with blurred vision and headaches. (Having spells of impaired vision for over 20 minutes and headaches that can last for hours.)

Some days you may even have it worse: feeling drained with heightened anxiety levels, disorientation, and confusion.

If you suspect these to be effects of fluorescent lighting in the office, you may be right. Lighting conditions are known to influence how people feel. (By triggering or worsening light sensitivity, eye strain, migraine attacks, and other chronic health conditions.)

Here, we take a closer look at why fluorescent lights make you feel dizzy, anxious, sick, and such ‘weird’ feelings.

Can fluorescent lights make you feel sick?

Natural light contains and radiates full-spectrum colors with equal intensity. As such, your exposure to sunlight

  • Helps regulate your:
  • Sleep cycle
  • Moods and emotions, and
  • The body’s process of synthesizing essential vitamins

Fluorescent light, on its end, disburses only a limited range of visible light from its artificial, electromagnetic spectrum. As a result, prolonged exposure to this artificial light can negatively impact your health and overall wellbeing.

A 2011 study hypothesized that some fluorescents emit UV radiation that is harmful to the eyes. (Consequently, higher the risk of UV-related eye diseases by 12%.

Conventional fluorescent lighting is also linked to reduced productivity and alertness, increased physical and mental fatigue, and even; moods and negative emotions.

Experts also acknowledge that fluorescent lights can make people feel dizzy following their subliminal flicker rate. Prolonged exposure to the same is shown to disrupt your sleep cycle, increasing the risk of sleep-related health problems. Also, anxiety and bright lights go hand-in-hand. Those super bright, long cylinder lights can promote anxiety attacks with those people with generalized anxiety disorder.

Exposure to fluorescent light can also cause the following: 

Headaches or migraine attacks

Bright indoor lights are likely to trigger migraine attacks for persons with headache disorders, such as vestibular migraine or cluster headache.

Over 50% of people with migraines are prone to such attacks when exposed to fluorescent light. A study found that approximately 85% of migraine attacks in persons with chronic headaches and photophobia are triggered by fluorescent light.

The general population is, however, not immune to florescent-induced headaches. In one study, office workers exposed to fluorescent lighting had 2X more headaches episodes than those exposed to more natural lighting.

Eye problems

Besides the immediate eye symptoms such as inflammation, excessive squinting, and ocular strain, evidence shows that fluorescent lighting is harmful to your eyes in the long haul.

According to Australian researchers, the UV radiation emitted by fluorescents can lead to a 12% increase in eye diseases, more so cataracts.

Some physicians have also theorized that myopia or retinal damage could be side effects of fluorescent photophobia. (With the key suspected culprits being the blue light wavelengths and overall brightness.)

Furthermore, individuals with dry eye, benign essential blepharospasm, and other inherent eye conditions are often more sensitive to artificial light. But even in cases of non-medical problems, fluorescent lighting can arouse the central nervous system—leading to visual stress, eye discomfort, and diminished reading proficiency.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

chronic fatigue syndrome words printed on a book page

According to research, just 6 hours of exposure to artificial light is enough to impair your cells’ ability to produce energy efficiently. And the rate of production decreases as the duration of exposure increases.

With less energy in the body, you’re likely to feel drained.

Besides contributing to fatigue-induced glare, fluorescents have been shown to:

  • Trigger fibromyalgia flares and lupus
  • Slow down metabolism
  • Disrupt the immune system
  • Disrupt menstrual cycles
  • Interfere with focus and concentration
  • Contribute to skin aging
  • Increase the risk of skin cancer
  • Can trigger anxiety

Can you be sensitive to fluorescent lights?

Do you often feel weird even after a slight exposure to artificial light? You may be sensitive to fluorescents. And as such, exhibit different symptoms, such as:

  • Eyestrain
  • Eye pain or inflammation
  • Impaired or blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath, etc.

Note, some symptoms may manifest within a few minutes of exposure. Others, particularly emotional side effects, may not show until weeks or even months later.

Light sensitivity can be attributed to several factors.

One, the dominance of fluorescent lighting in schools, offices, and public places: For decades, fluorescents were deemed an efficient way to light buildings. It was even assumed to be similar to natural sunlight. (The reason most buildings are lit using fluorescent bulbs.)

Besides lighting, fluorescent light is used in computers, smartphones, and other electronics. (Further increasing its dominance and the subsequent fluorescent photophobia.)

Two, underlying health conditions: For example, people with migraines are more likely to experience light sensitivity than people without the disorder. Ninety percent of autistic persons report fluorescent as a ‘key’ catalyst to their sensory stress.  And the same goes for people with a concussion or traumatic brain injuries. (With their diminished brain function making them more susceptible to fluorescent.)

Light sensitivity is enhanced by:

  • Migraine
  • Tension-type headache
  • Cluster headache
  • New daily persistent headache
  • Traumatic brain injuries (concussions)
  • Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias

Further, light sensitivity can result from fluorescent lighting properties that impact a person’s tolerance levels. Such properties include:

  • High amounts of blue light
  • Overall brightness, and
  • Low-frequency flicker

Do fluorescent lights affect the brain?

Fluorescents emit subliminal flickers, which send chaotic signals to the brain. That can, in turn, set a chain reaction of neurological responses or nervous system events like tics, seizures, or migraines.

Do fluorescent lights cause dizziness?

While there is no clear-cut answer, some research hypotheses suggest that fluorescent can indeed cause dizziness.

One reason revolves around their overall brightness, where high-intensity light like fluorescents are known to trigger dizzy spells in people with chronic light sensitivity, following their lower threshold to light.

The color matters too. For instance, blue light is more likely to trigger dizziness and other chronic conditions than different colors. The fact that blue light wavelengths are everywhere only makes its effects worse.

The inherent flicker rate in fluorescents can also cause dizziness.

Auxiliary factors such as intense focusing and eye strain can also trigger dizziness in susceptible persons. (Think of individuals with traumatic brain injury or post-concussion syndrome. Or people with eye deficiencies or who are unable to focus for long.)

Do fluorescent lights cause anxiety?

Researchers cite fluorescent lights as having a high capability to trigger panic attacks. More studies have supported the claim, revealing that exposure to fluorescent can develop physiological symptoms like elevated heart rate and negative emotions.

Evidence shows that exposure to artificial light—particularly at night—can affect mood and behavior regulation. The reason being, fluorescent light disrupts your circadian rhythm by delaying the production of melatonin. A disrupted circadian rhythm cannot efficiently regulate your moods, emotions, or even hormone production. (It’s no wonder studies point to night shift workers experiencing more depression-like episodes than their daytime counterparts.)

Blue light wavelengths, as present in fluorescents, are also known to disrupt sleep patterns. (Further contributing to anxiety, panic, and other mood issues.)

Can LED lights cause dizziness?

As mentioned in the previous section, the flicker rate in fluorescent lights can cause dizziness.

So, seeing that LED lights flickering is more pronounced than in fluorescents, dimming by 100%, as opposed to 35% in fluorescents. LED lights may be more likely to cause dizziness and other chronic conditions than fluorescent lights.

According to Professor Arnold Wilkins, a professor of psychology at the University of Essex,

“People exposed to LED lights can start feeling dizzy and ill within 20 minutes’ exposure.” 

He attributes that to the quick flickering of LED bulbs. He says,

“Because they are digital, LEDs quickly turn on and off hundreds of times a second. This flutter causes our brains to work harder, disrupts the movement of your eyes, and can cause headaches, dizziness, and even nausea.”

Fortunately, there are standards for LEDs that limit flickering to acceptable levels. That leaves it to you to ensure your LED lights meet these standards.

The color of light emitted by these lights is also concerning. Unlike natural daylight, LEDs emit higher amounts of blue light which may have multiple health effects. So, while LED lights significantly reduce energy bills, they can substantially increase medical bills thanks to LED-induced chronic conditions, such as dizziness. See our LED light covers for solutions.

How can you make fluorescent light more natural?

If you battle blurred visions, dizziness, or even fatigue at work, it’s time to transform the non-forgiving, fatigue-inducing lights in the office.

Fortunately, that’s easy to do. And you can begin by installing affordable yet durable fluorescent light filters.

When evaluating your options, find a cover/filter that:

  • Softens the fluorescent light
  • Transforms lights from a narrow range of color spectrum to full-spectrum visible light
  • Eliminates sickness-inducing glare
  • Is affordable, durable, and easy to install

By removing glare, the fluorescent light filters help reduce eye strain, headaches, and fatigue. They then block any harmful UV radiation, preventing skin damage and fading of materials.

And by transforming lights with a limited color spectrum to white light, these filters help improve focus, moods and stabilize your sleep cycle.

For best results, select filters that fit your existing fluorescents or LED lights. After all, fixtures flushed to the ceiling will require different covers than the standard 4 inches’ fluorescent bulbs.

In the case of LED bulbs, you can use anti-glare covers. Or operate the lamp in a direct as opposed to alternating current. (Keep in mind that this option involves expensive and short-lived components.) Your other option is to buy lamps that meet the set LED standards—ensuring their flickering rate is within the acceptable limit.

Make your Fluorescent Light more Natural and Healthy Today

At Make Great Light, we are known for producing the most advanced light covers in the industry. Our tube filters and fluorescent light covers eliminate glare, block harmful UV rays, and transform-limited fluorescent light to full-spectrum white light. (That, in turn, makes it more natural and healthy.)

Better still, our covers are made in the USA and can last you for 10+ years. Installation is also easy, thanks to our online support and guided videos. So you have no excuse for not making a change today.















6 thoughts on “Why Do Fluorescent Lights Make You Feel Weird?”

  1. I suffered a detached vitreous years ago and as I recuperated noticed my vision was deeply affected by the flashing lights in TV commercials and by movement of objects such as cars passing me on city streets. I felt dizzy, shaky and anxious and also when I spent time under flourescent lighting in stores. Years passed, my eye healed, but whenever I go into a supermarket or large store lit by flourescent lighting I am hit again with the symptoms above. I try to remember to wear some very strong sunglasses in these stores to alleviate my discomfort. I often wonder if others experience flourescent sensitivity.

    • Yes, Lynn I am very against fluorescent lighting as well. I wait tables and the light to dark and dark to light that is unfortunately part of my job has been very damaging physically, emotionally and mentally. Maybe more inexpensive way to light a room or a building, but very damaging. Not a fan at all. Trying to get my job to change these out and save us all from the pain that they bring

  2. There is nothing easy about fitting fluorescent light filters at work. Some places take 6 months to get you a new mouse!

  3. I go into A large store and I get so dizzy and nauseous, my heart rate goes up and I get very anxious. I didn’t notice these happenings until I got a concussion about 8 years ago. Now the longer I stay in a store the worse it gets. It takes me a couple of days to get over it. And only 20 minutes to make me sick. Literally. I’ve noticed if I move my eyes really fast, like looking for something in the store. I immediately start the dizziness and nausea. I get anxious because I’m afraid I’m going to throw up before I get out of the store. Sometimes I do. Even typing this makes me a little nauseous. I can’t afford those glasses they say you can get to help. Plus I already wear glasses. Can I get a filter on my actual glasses?

    • Hi Debra – Sorry to hear that you get that effect from indoor lighting. I wish more stores and public places considered lighting when designing a building. Retail stores love bright lights, unfortunately.


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