It turns out that reading on your iPad is actually a terrible way to fall asleep because the device’s blueish glow can make your body think it’s time to get up. The colour of light can have a big impact on the body’s natural rhythms, so a new connected bulb called the Silk works to keep things in sync by matching itself to the colour of the sun all day long.
Known as circadian rhythms, our body’s sleep and waking cycles are programmed to naturally respond to the ever-changing colour temperature of the light all around us—which was originally just the sun. As our neighbouring star appears to set at night with a relatively warm glow, our bodies start to feel tired as melatonin production automatically kicks in. But in the middle of the day, when the sun is high in the sky and shining an intense bluish light, our bodies suppress those sleep-inducing hormones to keep us awake and active.
So if your body is exposed to the wrong colour light at the wrong time of the day, it can make you feel prematurely tired—or wide awake when you’re trying to get to sleep. And we all know how important a proper night’s sleep is supposed to be.
On the surface the Silk lighting system might seem like just another connected LED lightbulb trying to squeeze a claim on a market that’s quickly getting a little too crowded. Like Philips’ own Hue system, one of the more popular connected lighting systems on the market, the Silk bulbs screw into standard sockets and all wirelessly connect to a central bridge allowing them to be remotely turned on and off, dimmed, or even scheduled using an app on your smartphone or other mobile device.
What sets the Silk bulbs apart from what’s already available is that they’re designed to also promote your body’s natural circadian rhythm by automatically changing their colour temperature to match the sun’s own colour shifts throughout the day. When you’re setting up the Silk Light system it just needs to know the time and your location, and it will then automatically calculate the perfect colour temperature for every connected bulb in your home or office.
So besides the convenience of being able to program and remotely control the lighting in your home, there’s even more incentive to replace every last bulb with a Silk light because it also means there’s the potential for a better night’s sleep.
The Silk bulb’s circadian rhythm tricks are certainly the star of the show, but the connected lighting system has one other feature that users of its competitor’s existing products might be envious of. When you switch your home over to connected bulbs, you need to leave every light switch turned on—permanently—so that you can control the bulbs from your mobile device. But how many of us carry our smartphones or tablets everywhere we go around the house? Very few. And having to go hunt it down just to switch off a light without using the wall switch is often very inconvenient.
That’s why Philips sells a physical remote for its Hue system. But the Silk bulbs have a more convenient trick up their sleeves: Flicking the light switch connected to the bulb—once, twice, or three times—turns the bulb on, changes its colour temperature, or slowly dims it to off. Two of those nClick gestures can even be customised through the Silk Light’s app so you can program what action those two or three flicks trigger.
If you’ve been thinking about swapping out all the bulbs in your home for a connected solution, and like what the Silk bulbs have to offer, you’ve actually got a bit more time to think about the switchover because the Silk Lights aren’t actually available just yet. They’re being introduced through a just-launched $100,000 Kickstarter campaign and aren’t expected to be available until January of next year. Bummer.
But there’s yet another good reason to consider waiting for the Silk bulbs to arrive. The Philips Hue starter pack, which includes three bulbs and a wireless bridge, currently sells for about £180. But the Silk bulbs starter pack will sell for more than half that—just $99/£63—for the first people to support Saffron’s Kickstarter campaign. There is some trade-off because the Silk bulbs can’t reproduce the entire colour spectrum like Philips’s Hue bulbs can. But in comparison the Silk’s colour-changing capabilities are designed to serve a practical function, not just as a fun party trick.
Additional Silk bulbs will sell for about $25/£16 each (because what home has only three bulbs?) which is bit cheaper than the Philips Hue multi-colour bulbs, but slightly more expensive than the white dimmable Hue bulbs. In fact the creators of the Silk system have worked hard to keep the hardware prices down so it’s easier to switch your entire home over, especially when you factor in the long life of an LED bulb. Not only will a healthy circadian rhythm help get you to sleep at night, so will the peace of mind of saving a few bucks in the process.