Teachers have a considerable amount of influence over their classroom environment. Some teachers pay closer attention to the details of their environment that others commonly overlook, including the negative impact of fluorescent lighting in the classroom.
If you’ve been investigating the many benefits of filtering the fluorescent lights in your classroom, you are likely aware of the many advantages of transforming visible light for the benefit of your students.
Since teachers often prioritize the needs of their students over their own, you may not be considering the potential impact of unfiltered light on your own health and wellbeing. Here are the top seven reasons classroom lighting matters for you as much as for the students you teach.
Classroom Lighting Can Sabotage Your Classroom Performance
Natural light contains all the colors of the visible light spectrum with equal intensity. So does incandescent light. Fluorescent lights are different. Fluorescent lighting provides light in a limited color spectrum. These limitations can have a distinct impact on moods, emotions, hormone regulation, and even sleep cycles.
To give your students the best you have to offer, you have to feel your best.
Since fluorescent lighting can influence the way you feel, the lighting in your classroom could be sabotaging overall classroom productivity, your students’ and your own. If you work under the harsh glare of fluorescent light, you may recognize some of the following effects.
#1. Fluorescent Lights Trigger Headaches
The fluorescent lights found in most classrooms are a common trigger for headaches and migraine. Researchers commonly believe that people living with migraine pain are sensitive to the color temperature and subliminal flicker of fluorescent lights. Those living with migraines are not the only people impacted. Fluorescent lights are also known to trigger:
- Cluster headaches – recurring, severe pain on one side of the head
- New Daily Persistent Headaches – recurring headaches in people with no history of migraine
- Tension headaches – characterized by pain across the forehead, or along the back or sides of the head. Neck and shoulder pain can accompany tension headaches.
While fluorescent lights have improved over the years, it’s important to note that even “flicker free” bulbs send chaotic messages to your brain.
While you can’t see the flicker, the chaotic signals can also cause fatigue and irritability.
#2. Classroom Lighting Can Contribute to Light Sensitivity
Many teachers working under the harsh glare of fluorescent lighting notice that their eyes feel tired, sore, or even painful by the end of the day.
If you are sensitive to fluorescent lights, you may also notice that your eyes tear when exposed to certain lighting conditions.
The medical term for light sensitivity is photophobia. The symptoms of photophobia can be instantaneous with exposure or escalate throughout the course of the school day. If you are experiencing light sensitivity, you may recognize some of the following symptoms:
- Excessive blinking (voluntary or involuntary) to reduce discomfort
- Redness or inflammation after exposure to certain types of light sources
- Excessive tearing in fluorescent lights, bright daylight, or while viewing a computer screen
- Frequent headaches or migraines triggered by light
- Blurred vision, double vision, or squinting to focus
- Inability to fully open your eyes with changing light intensity or prolonged exposure
When you have a headache or are toughing out a migraine, you likely find it more challenging to connect with your students or enjoy the progress made during the day.
Many teachers who are sensitive to fluorescent light find that installing classroom fluorescent filters eases their discomfort.
#3. Fluorescent Lighting Can Intensify Stress Levels
Many of the hormones responsible for regulating your moods and emotions are influenced by sunlight, including your stress hormones. The color spectrum of the light emitted from your classroom lighting can suppress hormone production.
Fluorescent light is shown to inhibit natural cortisol production, the hormone responsible for the fight or flight response triggered by stress. While this may seem beneficial, cortisol suppression is actually counterproductive.
When cortisol production is suppressed, it becomes increasingly difficult for your body to deal with everyday stressors. As a result, your stress levels can continue to rise. In addition to regulating your body’s reaction to stress, cortisol also plays a significant role in the following functions:
- Regulating inflammation
- Influencing blood sugar levels
- Controlling sleep/wake cycles
- Boosting energy levels
If fluorescent lights are interfering with your body’s ability to regulate stress, you may notice that you feel increasingly more stressed during the day. You may also notice an increase in food cravings and decreased energy levels. While your students may not be aware of your food cravings, they are likely to pick up on your increasing stress levels or fatigue and respond accordingly.
#4. Classroom Lighting Can Interfere with Sleep Cycles
The area of your brain that influences your sleep cycles is regulated by the natural progression of sunlight, full-spectrum light. Limited exposure to natural light can interfere with this essential regulatory process.
Fluorescent light exposure suppresses melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping in spite of the physical and emotional demands of the classroom, you could be feeling the effects of sleep cycle dysregulation caused by fluorescent lighting. If your sleep is being affected, you may be far too aware of the following symptoms of sleep deprivation:
- Fatigue and lack of motivation
- Moodiness or irritability
- Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating
- Symptoms of anxiety or depression
While daytime exposure to fluorescent light can affect hormone regulation, you may notice that it’s the evening activity, the extracurriculars or parent/teacher conferences, that will disrupt your ability to fall asleep the most.
The effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative. Sleep deprivation can increase your risk of serious health complications including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
Are fluorescent lights making you tired?
Do you feel sleepy towards the end of the school day? Your lighting may be robbing you of a restful nights sleep.
#5. Fluorescent Lighting Can Increase Your Risk of Eye Problems
The light emitted from your classroom lighting fixtures utilizes two types of energy. Electrical energy interacts with gasses in the fluorescent tube to generate ultraviolet light, the same type of energy emitted from the sun.
The phosphorous coating of the bulb absorbs the UV rays and emits visible light.
Many teachers underestimate the potential impact of indoor UV light exposure on their health. A 2011 report published in The American Journal of Public Health estimates that prolonged, consistent fluorescent light exposure increases your risk of eye disease by up to 12 percent.
The lighter your eyes, the more susceptible they are to damage. Prolonged, daily exposure to fluorescent lighting can have significant consequences, including:
- An increased risk of cataracts
- A higher risk of macular degeneration
- An increase in your risk of corneal bumps (pterygia)
To protect the health of your eyes, it’s important to minimize UV exposure. Outdoors, UV blocking sunglasses are ideal. Indoors, consistently wearing dark glasses can increase light sensitivity. UV-blocking fluorescent light filters may be your ideal solution. By blocking UV rays, you will be protecting your eyes from cumulative damage.
#6. Classroom Lighting Can Accelerate Skin Aging
While fluorescent lights are designed to absorb UV radiation, the phosphorous coating protecting your skin is vulnerable to damage. It appears that the risk of indoor exposure is more significant than once believed. Age decreases the protective phosphorous coating of fluorescent bulbs. UV exposure: even low-dose exposure, can damage your skin.
Your skin needs protection from UV rays whether natural or man-made. Consider the following effects of UV rays on the appearance of your skin.
- UVA rays damage DNA in skin cells
- Breakdown of collagen and elastin
- Skin sagging and wrinkles
- Hyperpigmentation and age spots.
If you have a chronic skin condition, UV exposure could make your symptoms worse. Indoor UVB exposure can also trigger rashes, skin lesions, and joint inflammation in those living with lupus and negatively impact those living with other autoimmune disorders.
#7. Classroom Lighting Can Interfere with Your Lesson Plans
Until you know what to look for, you may not initially recognize the impact of unfiltered fluorescent light on your students. Young people may be more susceptible to the effects than adults.
In addition to the headaches, sleep disruption, and the effects on moods and emotions, research also suggests that fluorescent classroom lighting can contribute to:
- A reduction in student ability to concentrate and focus
- Blood pressure increases (compared to natural light)
- Loss of visual acuity and reading difficulty
- Excitability, hyperactivity, and distractibility
- Increased agitation and repetitive motions in children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Light intensity and color temperature are shown to have a significant impact on student progress. The loss of visual acuity and reading difficulty is directly related to fluorescent glare. In classrooms where glare is minimized, classroom performance can improve by as much as 25 percent. Filtration helps students remain alert and focused.
Can Classroom Lighting Affect Testing Scores?
Learn how classroom lighting can affect student performance.
Modifying Classroom Lighting Inexpensively
Many teachers who are concerned with the effect of fluorescent lighting in their classroom are opting to filter the harsh, glaring light of their overhead fixtures with fluorescent light covers. When investigating your options, it’s important to remember that not all products are equally beneficial.
The best fluorescent filters:
- Transform limited color spectrum light to full-spectrum white light
- Eliminate the glare that can interfere with learning
- Block harmful UV rays
- Are cost-effective and easy to install
For fluorescent lighting covers and tube filters that eliminate glare, block harmful UV radiation, and transform the color spectrum of fluorescent tubes to full-spectrum light, visit Make Great Light.
Our fluorescent light filters are the most advanced in the industry.
Numerous teachers are finding Make Great Light filters to be an affordable lighting solution that enhances productivity, learning, and teacher well-being.