For as long as I can remember, I have struggled to wake up in the morning. I have memories of being in trouble for arriving late to class after sleeping through my alarm clock. Things did not improve as I transitioned into adult life. As an electrician, and later, a lighting salesman, I would often struggle through the day, feeling under-slept only to feel wide awake when I needed to go to bed. I didn't see this as an indicator that something was wrong, but rather, as part of life. I wasn't a morning person, and that was the way it was.
My perspective began to change when research uncovering the power of light on our sleeping patterns started to emerge. Despite working in the lighting industry for almost two decades, up to that point, I had only ever considered light as necessary for vision. But this piqued my curiosity; how else does light impact us? It was this interest that led me to a Light and Health Forum in Las Vegas about seven years ago, where I found myself surrounded by cutting-edge lighting researchers and academics. That is where I heard from several researchers who were concerned about the health effects of conventional lighting and the time we spend indoors. They explained light's role in synchronising our body clock with the sun and how our modern lifestyles' can disrupt this balance.
I left that conference with more questions than answers; could my sleep really be a symptom of poor lighting? And if so, how could the industry I had been a part of for most of my working life be failing to meet people's needs?
However, I was also hopeful. I naively believed that I was about to witness what seemed like an inevitable next significant change in lighting. Much like when LED's first arrived on the scene, I thought that within a matter of years buildings would all begin switching to nutritional lighting; lighting that supports our health.
That was nearly seven years ago. Despite technological developments, nutritional light has still failed to achieve mainstream adoption. It was while I was at a friend's newly renovated house that it struck me how little has changed. As we enjoyed dinner under the glare of their recently installed cool-white LED down-lights, my friend — knowing I worked in lighting — asked what I thought of the new lights. Recalling the research about the risks of blue light at night, I responded,
"Do any of you have trouble sleeping?"
My friend, now looking confused, admitted that his sixteen-year-old daughter had recently begun suffering from sleeping problems. When I suggested that the lighting may play a significant role, they looked shocked. That's when it occurred to me; if we want to get people to change their lighting, first we have to change the way they see light. It was this that motivated me to start OSIN.
A couple of months later, we had a team of people united by one vision; to improve people's health with the right light at the right time.
Initially, we were determined to work at the project level; fitting out entire buildings with nutritional lighting. But we quickly encountered several barriers. The person who decided which lights were installed and those who would use that space were disconnected. Unless there was understanding from the people working inside the building, there was no reason for any key decision-makers to deviate from the status quo; visual light that is not giving us the nutritional light that we need. Worse still, whenever I had a conversation with someone about the power of light to transform their sleep, they would ask me what they could do today. I had nothing to offer them—just a hopeful vision of a future where all spaces have the light we need.
Whilst I may be an optimist, I'm also impatient. The world of projects was moving too slow for us to make a meaningful impact. That's when we asked ourselves,
How can we directly reach the people whose lives we can change while also raising awareness about the power of light?
That is when we decided to go directly to end-users, to empower people to make conscious decisions about their light diet. In hindsight, it's obvious that going with consumer products was the way to go, but after significant time in the commercial lighting space, this represented uncharted waters.
We used our combined knowledge in lighting and chronobiology to identify the areas where we could make the most significant impact and collaborated with technology leaders to develop solutions. We are so excited to finally be able to offer people the tools to start minimising blue light at night because we know it will help improve the quality of people's lives. But we believe this is just the beginning. We are determined to give everybody access to nutritional light day and night!