Energy-saving lightbulbs could be giving us all headaches as they flicker too much.
LED bulbs can bring on feelings of dizziness and pain within just 20 minutes of switching them on, an expert has warned.
Professor Arnold Wilkins, professor of psychology at the University of Essex, said the flickering of the unpopular lights is stronger than for traditional lightbulbs.
While fluorescent lights, such as those in offices, dim by around 35 per cent with every flicker, LED lights dim by 100 per cent. It means they effectively turn off and on again hundreds of times every second.
This can cause headaches by disrupting movement control of the eyes, forcing the brain to work harder. Flickering LED bulbs could double the chances of suffering a headache, based on previous research.
Professor Arnold Wilkins, professor of psychology at the University of Essex, said the flickering of the unpopular lights is stronger than for traditional lightbulbs
The warning comes as Britain is set to ban halogen lightbulbs completely next September under EU law. They are currently being phased out, with major retailer IKEA already only offering LED bulbs for sale.
‘People do not like the flicker’
Professor Wilkins said the flicker from the energy-efficient bulbs is putting some people off buying them, adding: ‘People do not like the flicker, it can make them fell dizzy and unwell after about 20 minutes, and can produce disturbing anomalies of perception, such as seeing multiple images of the lamp, every time you move your eyes rapidly.’
Most electric lighting is powered by an alternating current supply, which causes light bulbs to flicker. This particularly affects vision during rapid eye movements called saccades.
A study from 1989 conducted by Professor Wilkins found fluorescent lighting which flickered 100 times a second doubled the chances of office workers experiencing headaches. LED lightbulbs can flash 400 times a second – four times as often.
Britain’s young adults might be tech savvy but they are incapable of doing even the most basic household tasks.
The under 35s are at a loss when it comes to basic DIY with many even unable to change a light bulb or repair a fence, according to a survey in March.
Researchers found young Londoners were the least happy get their hands dirty while those in the West Midlands were the most capable.
What’s more one in five of them blame their parents for not telling them how to do these basic tasks.
Researchers found one in five under 35s still turn to their parents if they need help with household chores.
And among women it was even worse with eight in ten of them relying on their partners to fix things in their homes, according to the study by British maintenance company Corgi HomePlan.
Annoying and distracting
Writing on the website The Conversation, Professor Wilkins said: ‘No similar study has yet been performed for LED lights. But because LED flickering is even more pronounced, with the light dimming by 100 per cent rather than the roughly 35 per cent of fluorescent lamps, there’s a chance that LEDs could be even more likely to cause headaches.
‘At best, it’s likely to put some people off using LED bulbs because of the annoying, distracting effect of the flickering, which we know can be detected during saccades.’
The risk of headaches may be particularly high while reading, when it is important to position the eyes carefully to scan the pages.
Flickering lightbulbs disrupt the control of this eye movements, making the brain use more energy to work harder, which has been linked to headaches.
It can also cause people to suffer visual anomalies, such as double or multiple vision. The lamp in front of you may look like two or three lamps because of this visual effect when a bulb flickers.
What are LEDs?
LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are one of two main types of energy-efficient lightbulbs available in the UK, along with compact fluorescent lamps. They can cost more than traditional lightbulbs, but are said to be cheaper in the long-term because they last longer.
However they have faced past criticism that they emit a cold, green light and take too long to warm up.
The flickering can be solved by buying a more expensive lamp, with a direct current rather than an alternating current so that the light is constant. But the lamp’s components may not last as long.
Arlene Wilkie, chief executive at the charity The Migraine Trust, said: ‘While we do know there are certain trigger factors for migraine, such as flickering light, there isn’t a lot of evidence that LED flickering lights are bad for migraine/headache.’