20th January 2014

Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as SAD, is thought to be caused when a lack of natural light makes the brain produce more melatonin – the sleep hormone, and less serotonin – which lifts moods. This leads to depression and lethargy, which as many as one in 50 people suffer from.

Light therapy is a proven treatment for SAD so we should not ignore the symptoms as it is a well-known fact that SAD is known to respond to the hormone serotonin, whose production is triggered by natural daylight. Also, many scientific studies conducted in the healthcare sector now support the conclusion that natural daylight shortens patient recovery times, improves their mood and generally promotes well-being. For example, the health of patients located near windows improves more quickly, and the babies of mothers exposed to higher daylight illumination grow quicker and are released earlier.

In order to treat SAD with light therapy, most sufferers need their eyes to see light as bright as a spring morning on a clear day, for around 30 minutes a day. The light must be at least 2,500 lux, which is roughly five times brighter than a well-lit office. Users are said to feel the benefit after about seven days.

Among the most innovative natural lighting systems is the Monodraught Sunpipe, which can eliminate the need for electric lighting during daylight hours and bring natural daylight into virtually any building – typically providing approximately three times as much light as a similar conventional rooflight. When mounted on the roof the highly reflective Sunpipe tube reflects and intensifies sunlight and normal daylight into the space below. It spreads light evenly using a patented prismatic diffuser; lighting areas without glare and eliminating heat transfer. The design of the diamond shaped dome ensures that dust and dirt is washed off naturally and no maintenance is required outside or inside the building. Sunpipes can even be mounted horizontally to pipe light deep into interiors and can be used in basements.

In addition, at least 75% of electricity costs for lighting can be saved during daytime, where Sunpipes are used to replace electric lighting during daylight hours, and considerable environmental and health benefits are experienced (natural daylight is known to combat SAD) due to the much improved working environment.

Monodraught produces a range of Sunpipes designed to provide natural daylighting for industrial units, warehousing, high-bay stores, etc., as well as for homes, offices, wash rooms, internal stairways and corridors.

University reports show that Sunpipe natural daylighting does significantly improve the working environment, whilst natural lighting in schools has also been shown to improve students’ learning – recording 20% improvements in Maths tests and 26% in reading tests in one year. This explains why Monodraught Sunpipes are being embraced by the building services industry to provide an antidote to SAD and help eliminate the unnecessary use of electric lighting during daylight hours.

In domestic, industrial, commercial and healthcare environments, Sunpipe systems should not primarily be viewed as a ‘cost saving’ measure. Whilst year-on-year actual savings are available there is also an energy savings achievable when Sunpipes are used in lieu of artificial lighting. Add to this the benefits to the staff working in these areas and natural lighting does provide a much more pleasant working environment than artificial lighting. In fact, extensive work carried out in the USA by Heschong Mahone Consulting Group, found that productivity in offices served by natural daylight shows a 20% increase in output from employees, with a marked reduction in absence due to sickness. Sunpipes will provide a stress-free, soothing, and far healthier office ambience by eliminating the glare and conflict of electric lighting and computer screens.

Sunpipes also have a considerable advantage over conventional roof lights as they are designed to diffuse natural daylight uniformly over the widest area to prevent the ‘glare’ that is often attributed to conventional roof lights.

In addition, the associated heat gains with artificial lighting are not a concern with Sunpipe systems, as a Sunpipe is essentially a double-glazed system containing a column of still air. This effectively reduces heat gain in summer as warm air rises to the top of the system and expands through the condensation gasket, keeping the system cool at ceiling level. Conversely, in the winter it traps the warm air within the pipe; thus suffering the least heat loss possible. These effects are confirmed by the substantial numbers of Sunpipe systems installed by Monodraught throughout Europe, in the USA, the Middle East and the Far East.

As with any type of depression, SAD can be difficult to live with, but it can usually be successfully treated with the natural light therapy provided by Monodraught Sunpipes.

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