Light & Quality of Life

Light has a huge impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. Armed with this knowledge, OSRAM is assisting the German Ski Association by developing a lighting concept to help it in its hunt for medals.

Fritz Dopfer is one of the world's best skiers. He is the ultimate pro, dedicating his entire life to his training regime and a healthy lifestyle, and always thinking about the next detail that could be optimized. Dopfer is well aware that it's not just muscle power, stamina and technique that make the difference between success and failure. "It's not always easy to perform to your maximum, particularly when you've been making long journeys and changing time zones or when it would be pitch black were it not for the piste lighting," says Dopfer, who talks about start times in the evening and competitions in Scandinavian countries where the sun might not come up during the whole day. At races overseas or in the Far East, Dopfer and his fellow skiers also have to contend with jet lag after a long flight.

So as a winter sports athlete Fritz Dopfer has to deal with light and darkness, as well as with snow and ice. The quality of light is key to the wellbeing of all humans. Light controls our inner clock; it signals to the body when it is time to be active – and when it's time to rest. To shed the necessary light on things, the German Ski Association (DSV) has been working with OSRAM for the past two years.

"It's not always easy to perform at your maximum potential, particularly when you've been making long journeys and changing time zones."
Fritz Dopfer

"We developed a light that helps the athletes to wake up faster and start the day in a more active way and that can also alleviate the classic symptoms of jet lag, such as tiredness," says biologist Dr. Andreas Wojtysiak, Senior Key Expert for Light and Quality of Life at OSRAM. In his department, he works on lights and light modules that produce 'biologically effective light'. This means light that signals to the body that it is now time to become active – regardless of the actual time of day or position of the sun.

The light alarm clock is a case in point: Its lighting strip can be set to various brightness levels and in various colors by remote control. "A cold blueish-white light, for example, makes you feel more awake by simulating the sky in daylight," says Wojtysiak. By contrast, reddish light has a calming effect and is suitable for recuperation". The OSRAM biologist prepared a set of instructions for the DSV athletes, telling them how to make optimum use of the light alarm clock. During competitions, Fritz Dopfer now brings the light with him to his hotel room. "The light helps me to wake up faster in the morning and I'm able to relax better in the evening too." The artificial light is particularly beneficial for skiers in countries that don't get much sunlight during the day.

"The light helps me to wake up faster in the morning and I'm able to relax better in the evening too."

Fritz Dopfer

OSRAM is also working with the athletes to test special light glasses that are designed to be put on immediately before competing. "We probably looked quite funny when we first sat in the lift up to the piste wearing the glasses," says Fritz Dopfer. At the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado, he and his teammate Felix Neureuther tried out this method for the first time: "We were curious; we wanted to see if it would help at all." The mobile light glasses are designed to produce a very short blast of concentrated brightness, which improves attentiveness.

The collaboration with the DSV is just one example of OSRAM's work. "A great deal has been happening in the field of light research in recent years," says Andreas Pickelein, who works as project manager at OSRAM for lighting concepts. "We commission studies, work closely with academia and cooperate with various partners in order to use light to improve people's quality of life". How can light be used make schoolchildren less tired in classrooms and pay more attention to the lesson? Can the right lighting concept improve workers' concentration? In healthcare, too, OSRAM is continuously testing how people's wellbeing can be improved by using the right kind of lighting. A case in point is the memory center for people with dementia, part of the St. Augustinus hospitals in Neuss, Germany. OSRAM's warmer, friendly light was specially designed to enhance the mood of the patients and is demonstrating very good therapeutic success in the second year of the collaboration.

When DSV skiers are in a competition, OSRAM lights are now fitted in the communal rooms used by the athletes and are turned on at breakfast or during team meetings. "The athletes are grateful for the support," says Karlheinz Waibel, Federal Trainer for Science and Technology at the DSV. Fritz Dopfer and Felix Neureuther won silver and bronze respectively in the slalom in Vail. "Since then I've always felt good when I see the lights," says Fritz Dopfer. "After all, it's the little things that make a big difference."

How light can help us

By imitating the rhythm of day and night, lights can make us more active or relax us. They can therefore be used to regulate people's bodies in elite sport, but also in the workplace or in healthcare.