New research has found that office staff stuck in windowless offices or who experience very little exposure to daylight get an average of 46 fewer minutes of sleep each night.
Those who spend their days close to a window experience less broken sleep patterns and have a better quality of life than staff that is deprived of daylight.
Researchers state that offices should be designed better to boost the mental and physical health of workers. In Britain, one in three people suffer from poor sleep. Stress, taking work home and computers often receive the blame for this.
Sufficient exposure to natural daylight is known to be vital in governing the circadian rhythm of the body, which is the built-in clock that dictates our sleeping and waking patterns. Getting poor sleep on a regular basis increases the risk of suffering from medical conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. It can also shorten life expectancy.
Researchers based at the University of Illinois, Chicago’s Northwestern University and the Hwa-Hsia Institute of Technology in Taiwan teamed up to do an investigation into the role of workplace windows and sleep patterns.
The investigation involved 49 office employees, of which 50% spent their days in mostly windowless offices, and the rest were exposed to daylight through windows.
Each of the participants was questioned about their sleeping patterns, general lifestyle and physical activity. Some of the participants were asked to wear hi-tech watches for two weeks to measure their exposure to light, sleep/wake times and physical activity levels.
The results indicated that those who received the most work-time light exposure slept an average of 46 minutes more each night than those who were deprived of light. They scored better when it came to sleep quality and reported less night-time disturbances. They were also more likely to do physical activity as they had received a good night’s sleep.
Based on the results of the study, researchers have suggested that offices should be designed in a way which places emphasis on daylight exposure for the workers.
This study supports earlier research which suggested that nurses are at less risk of burnout from stress related to their work if they were exposed to a minimum of three hours of daylight per day.
Dr Neil Stanley, a sleep expert, said it is necessary for the body to be exposed to daylight to allow it to maintain regular sleeping patterns. He said that our bodies are told when to waken and when to go asleep by the level of light.
He added that the main problem with office lighting is that it is not ‘blue’ light which is what the sun provides and controls your body clock. So even if you have a very well lit office, it will not have the same effect because it does not contain blue light, as it is artificial.
Image Credit: Liz Mc