NLB Annual Lighting Forum: The Relationship between Street Lighting and the Circadian System

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The NLB held a panel discussion on the effects of street lighting on the circadian system. This discussion went in detail about more than just the human circadian system, but also discussed the circadian systems of plants and other animals. The panel was moderated by Randy Reid, the Executive Director of the NLB, and featured the following experts:

  • Ron Gibbons, Virginia Tech
  • Raj Bhagvathual, Virginia Tech

The direct link between lighting and melatonin is the basis for the discussion on how street lighting impacts sleep quality in humans and animals. Different solutions are needed for humans and animals and depending on situation. On the topic of plants, while melatonin levels are not a concern, some need the darkness of night in order to produce crops and flowers. These individual situations are often all mingled in one environment, so the process of developing best street lighting practice is a challenging one.

The panel discusses the topic of light spectrum and other measures that can be taken to improve street lighting for animals and plants. Dr. Ron Gibbons stated that the better solution is to reduce dosage and light levels as much as possible, rather than focus on spectrum. Another important factor is the time of day/night that you are exposed to high levels of light that can affect your circadian rhythms in different ways.

The panel also discusses the topic of litigation taken by people because of intrusive lighting around residential areas. The possibility of litigation is becoming more of a factor as awareness around the effects lighting has on health becomes more prominent.

As the discussion was winding down, the experts began looking to the future on how street lighting might look like 10 years from now. Dr. Raj Bhagvathual believes an important detail of the future of lighting is recognizing what areas really need light and which ones don’t. Overall, he emphasized the importance of cutting out what is not needed and how to properly implement light levels.

Watch and listen to the full panel discussion here

The National Lighting Bureau is an independent, IRS-recognized not-for-profit, educational foundation that has served as a trusted lighting-information source. The Bureau provides its services to the public free of charge, thanks to the generous funding of the organization’s sponsors which include professional societies, trade associations, labor unions, manufacturers, and agencies of the U.S. government, including: 

About the NLB.
The NLB is focused on Promoting Lighting Excellence™ and helping the lighting industry solve its business problems. The NLB exists to create demand for High Benefit Lighting®–efficient lighting designed to optimize human performance, health, safety, and commerce—by educating those who make and influence decisions about lighting.  Obtain more information about the Bureau by contacting its staff at 615-379-7707, or visiting its website (, where information about sponsorship also is available. 


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