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Can Natural Light Improve Health?

Workers in Sunny Offices Report Better Quality of Life

Never underestimate the power of sunlight in the morning. Windows in the workplace can improve employees’ quality of life, attributing to an additional 46 minutes of sleep a night, according to a new study from Northwestern Medicine.

Aligning your body’s biological rhythms is crucial for your overall health, and light is a powerful synchronizing agent for the brain. Mood, alertness and metabolism are all positively affected by exposure to light. Due to the amount of time workers spend indoors, especially during crucial morning hours, the team of researchers, led by Phyllis Zee, MD, PhD, were interested in exploring the impact of windows in the workplace.

Research monitoring a group of 49 day-shift workers, 27 from windowless offices and 22 from workplaces with windows, confirmed that increased light exposure during the workday improved sleep and quality of life. Employees with high exposure to light tended to sleep longer and register more physical activity and better quality of life than their peers in dark offices. Workers in offices without windows reported poor quality of life on measures related to physical problems, vitality and sleep disturbances.

The study’s authors hope the discrepancy between workplaces with and without windows will lead architects and designers to prioritize light exposure. With increased natural light in the office during day, employees are more likely to sleep better at night, improving their overall health and wellness.

Other tips from Yahoo’s better sleep round-up include setting a regular bed-time, turning on the lights immediately when you wake, and working out first thing in the morning. Read the full press release for the natural light study here, and find out about about sleep medicine at Northwestern Medicine.

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Phyllis C. Zee, MD, PhD
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