Work in an Office? Daylight Improves Sleep, Activity and Quality of Life
If you work in an office and don’t get much sunlight, it may be reducing the amount of time you sleep and exercise, according to new research released in June.
The study was authored by Ivy Cheung, a doctoral candidate in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, Ill, and colleagues. Cheung presented the findings at SLEEP 2013, the 27th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, in Baltimore, Md.
The researchers studied 49 day-shift office workers — 27 worked in windowless workplaces, and 22 worked in offices with windows. Health-related quality of life was and sleep quality were both measured.
Light exposure, activity and sleep were also measured in a representative subset of 21 participants — 10 in windowless workplaces, and 11 in workplaces with windows.
The results of the study clearly favored workers in offices with windows. Compared to workers in offices without windows, those with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours, and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night.
Workers in offices with windows also had a greater amount of physical activity than those without windows. Workers without windows showed poorer scores on quality of life issues, such as physical problems, vitality, overall sleep quality, sleep disturbances, and daytime dysfunction.
Co-author Cheung says of the results, “The extent to which daylight exposure impacts office workers is remarkable. Day-shift office workers’ quality of life and sleep may be improved via emphasis on light exposure and lighting levels in current offices as well as in the design of future offices.” In other words, the architectural design of office environments should take into consideration how natural daylight exposure may contribute to employee wellness.
What you can do to improve sleep and wellness
In addition to increasing the amount of daylight, you can also examine if lifestyle habits are contributing to difficulty sleeping, fatigue and other symptoms.
Some behavioral and lifestyle questions to ask include:
- During the day, do I take enough breaks outside to enjoy the sunshine?
- Am I watching TV or using the computer late at night and too close to bedtime?
- Am I consuming too much caffeine during the day?
- Am I taking a medication that may be affecting my sleep quality and duration?
- Is there something particularly stressful going on in my life that is causing me worry and anxiety?
- Am I exercising enough to help alleviate some of that stress and tension?
Many sleep problems can be remedied by making some common-sense behavioral changes. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing one or more of the above symptoms on a regular basis, see a qualified ear, nose and throat doctor or otolaryngologist to get diagnosed and treated properly. There are multiple options and minimally-invasive techniques available today to treat your sleep disorder.
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