More Natural Light Exposure at the Office Enhances Health

Instead of artificially boosting workplace energy levels with caffeine and sugar-filled drinks, increase your productivity by getting more natural light throughout the day. A new study has indicated that more natural light exposure in the workplace could benefit workers’ mood and metabolism.
Office workers with more natural light exposure at the office had longer sleep duration, better sleep quality, more physical activity and better quality of life compared to those with less light exposure in the workplace, according to researchers at Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Let The Sun Shine In
The workers with windows in the office received an average of 173 percent more white light during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night than those employees who were deprived of the natural light exposure in the workplace. The workers with more light exposure also tended to be more physically active.
Light exposure, activity and sleep were measured by actigraphy in a representative subset of 21 participants including 10 in windowless workplaces and 11 in workplaces with windows, the study reports. Actigraphy is a device worn on the wrist that gives measures of light exposure as well as activity and sleep.
When the participants were asked questions about quality of life, the workers without windows reported lower scores related to physical problems and vitality, as well as poorer outcomes on measure of overall sleep quality and sleep disturbances.
Daylight and Circadian Rhythms
The link between darkness and depression has been established in numerous studiesand the researchers of this new study report that there is a growing body of evidence showing how light exposure, especially in the morning, benefits your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism.
According to the researchers, light synchronizes our internal biological rhythms with the earth’s daily rotation, which has been shown to be essential to health. These biological or circadian rhythms dictate sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions.
Exposure to sunshine also helps the body to produce vitamin D, dubbed the “sunshine vitamin” by health experts. Low levels have been linked to depressionand to an increased risk of developing diabetes, multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure.
Working More Natural Light Into Your Day
The researchers state that the study results highlight the importance of exposure to natural light to employee health and suggest that architectural designs of office environments should ensure that workstations are within 20 to 25 feet of the peripheral walls containing the windows. Beyond 25 feet and daylight from windows vanishes.

If moving from your cubicle to a corner office isn’t in the bosses’ plans, take your lunch outside or plan 10-minute walk breaks around the office to increase your sun exposure. Taking a sunshine break will provide a better and long lasting energy boost than a caffeine and sugar-filled can of soda.