While most of the conversation about light bulbs revolves around energy efficiency, a growing amount of research shows that we should also be talking how they affect our health.
C by GE is a Bluetooth-enabled, customizable LED lighting system that is controlled by an iOS app. The website claims the bulbs give you exactly the kind of light you need throughout the day to promote natural sleep cycles.
I tried the bulbs out for a week to see if they really live up to the site's promises.
The human brain evolved to take cues for the sleep/wake cycle from sunlight. As the sun's relative position changes throughout the day, light filters through the atmosphere and produces different wavelengths of color. We receive blue light during the day, while sunset brings orange light. When the brain receives this orange light, hormones get secreted that tell the body it's time to get ready for bed.
Unfortunately, the artificial lights we spend most of our time with aren't really great for this process.
Smartphones and tablets have LCD screens that emit bright blue light, which make our brains think it's the middle of the day. Because more and more people are on their devices in bed, this is having big effects on sleep quality, in turn affecting memory, mental health, even the immune system.
It isn't just artificial light from devices that is killing our sleep. Bright lightbulbs also give our brains a false sense of what time it is.
C by GE is a system that is able to change color throughout the day, mimicking the natural color pattern of the sun.
Lisa Winter / A Plus
The starter pack contains four bulbs: two of the C-Life bulbs meant for living spaces and two C-Sleep bulbs to be used in the bedroom. The pack can be purchased on its website for $50. Considering ordinary LED bulbs that don't have any extra features cost roughly $10 each, it's a pretty fair price. The bulbs themselves are sturdy and heavier than expected.
The app automatically searches for available bulbs, pairing without a problem. Not only does the app turn the bulbs on and off, but it has a dimmer feature as well, creating whatever brightness level is most comfortable. Another cool feature is the ability to set scenes, which lets you customize the brightness of each bulb in a room based on what you're doing, like watching a movie or getting ready for work. Once the initial setup is done, a simple touch of the button automatically makes the lights shine just how you like them.
As for the color-changing aspect, the bulbs produce 3 colors, depending on the time of day. The Follow The Sun feature changes the color based on the time of day. These times can be adjusted, allowing the bulbs to replicate the sun's cycle as it changes throughout the year.
Lisa Winter / A Plus
So how did these bulbs actually work out?
I don't have enough good things to say about the C-Sleep bulbs. It created a very cozy effect in the bedroom and was more comfortable to read by than the blinding LED reading light I normally use. I can't say if it was the bulbs or just the power of suggestion, but I did have an easier time winding down at night.
Sadly, I didn't feel as strongly about the C-Life bulbs in my office. While that is where I am most of the day, the lamp had a hard time competing with the light from my computer monitor and the natural sunlight coming in from my window. But, that's probably more of a fault of the room than the bulbs.
The one slightly off-putting part about them is that there are two different kinds of bulbs, which are controlled differently on the app. That little bit of discontinuity is hardly a dealbreaker, but it is a tad annoying.
In the end, I was really impressed at how easy it was to use the system and how it helped me think more about how artificial light affects me during the day. With the warm colored light of the C-Sleep bulbs combined with actively avoiding my phone later in the night, I noticed a difference in my ability to fall asleep.
Considering these are only slightly more expensive than regular LED bulbs for an incredible amount more versatility, C by GE is a pretty solid investment.
All images: Lisa Winter / A Plus