Bad lighting can be a major problem for migraine sufferers; both during an attack, and as a contributing factor towards the onset of one. Not all light is the same though. Some forms are more troubling for migrainers than others.
Many office workers will know well the pain of having to work in an environment lit by fluorescent lighting. The harsh flickering is often cited as a big migraine trigger. It has also been said to trigger painful symptoms in lupus sufferers and increase the risk of seizures in epileptics, although there is not enough evidence at this time to say definitively that modern lamps can cause epilepsy or migraines. Unfortunately the new EU ban on the manufacture and import of traditional incandescent bulbs has not helped these issues. Energy-saving fluorescent lights have been brought in in their place, and while they use 80% less electricity than traditional bulbs, their type of light is not very migraine friendly.
It’s not just the type of light bulb that can have an effect on migraine sufferers though. How bright a light is can be one of the major factors in whether a light is likely to trigger an attack or not. Using less powerful bulbs might help to save energy and cut costs, but if a workplace isn’t well enough lit then employees can end up spending a lot of time straining to see; putting stress on eyes and building up head tension. However squinting, which involves the involuntary tensing of nerves against harsh light, can also make an attack for a migrainer more likely.
To try and find the right balance the government recommends different levels of light for different activities. A workroom should be lit at 300 lux illuminance; a corridor can be as low as 50; and workers studying detailed drawings (such as engineers) might need 750 lux. However studies have shown that if employees in open plan offices are given control of their local lighting (i.e. desk lamps etc) then job satisfaction can be increased and stress levels decreased.
Computer monitors are an aspect of work that can be awkward for migraine sufferers who need to look at them for long periods of time at work. You need them to emit light to see, but some screens can emit more “harsh light” and more of a glare. Some computers are worse for this than others but you can’t always choose your computer. One fairly simple solution is to install anti-glare screen filters that will soften the light.
Glare is another thing to consider. Bright white walls and reflective surfaces can be a nightmare on a sunny day. Installing blinds, being mindful not to place desks directly facing windows or light sources, and painting walls in softer colours will help avoid strain (a shade of blue that has a low saturation level is a good choice as blue is said to boost productivity but the low saturation will be soothing).
If you want a more in-depth guide to best practices and the benefits of good workplace lighting the government has a free pdf download on the subject here: http://bit.ly/1PfYpym
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