A recent study published in the ‘Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine‘ suggests that sunlight deprivation could in fact be the cause of those sleepless nights during the working week.
The study suggests that windowless rooms, or offices that force employees to work in artificially lit spaces, could actually cause poor quality of life and an erratic sleeping pattern. The study involved a total of 49 participants that were closely monitored for physical activity, sleeping patterns and overall lifestyle with differing levels of natural sunlight exposure; with just over half the participants spending the working day in a mostly windowless environment. The results, although somewhat predictable, do provide an interesting insight to just how much sunlight can affect our sleeping pattern and general behaviour; both at work and in general life.
The results of the study showed that those participants who worked in a naturally lit environment with good sunlight exposure slept on average 46 minutes longer than the other participants, as well as feeling more energetic and partaking in more exercise. Currently, 1 in 3 Britons suffer from poor sleeping habits, and the cause of this is often believed to be stress and prolonged periods of time working at a computer, but perhaps it’s time we looked at other factors that could be causing a poor night’s sleep. It seems that changing the way light is introduced into working spaces could make a real impact on sleeping habits, and both scientific and psychological evidence points towards this.
So what about artificial lighting? A naturally lit working environment can help your body set an ‘internal body clock’ or ‘circadian rhythm’ which acts as a built-in alarm clock to dictate natural waking and sleeping patterns. On a ‘good’ day, the light intensity from the sun is about 10,000 lux (a measure for luminous emittance) however indoor office lighting even if artificially well-lit, only provides around 300-500 lux; just a fraction of the real thing. In addition to this, sunlight exposure provides your body with ‘blue light.’ Blue light is a part of the visible spectrum in solar rays that tells our bodies to stay awake during the day by suppressing the release of melatonin; a hormone that causes us to feel sleepy. If we spend a lot of time indoors, or in a poorly lit office environment, our eyes don’t take in the right amount of blue light. Because of this, our bodies fail to give an internal signal to ‘sleep’ causing poor sleeping habits. Blue light is essential to help control your natural body clock. No matter how well artificially lit your office is it still won’t contain the blue light needed for a good night’s rest – you just can’t fake the real thing.
Just in case you still don’t believe us, ever heard of the winter blues? It’s all related. Seasonal affective disorder (or the ironically abbreviated ‘SAD’) affects 1 in 15 people. SAD is a type of depression associated with late autumn and winter and is thought to be caused by the lack of sunlight in colder months, causing symptoms of tiredness, irritability and agitation. Dr. Ivy Cheung from the department of neurology at Northwestern University, recently interviewed by the Daily Telegraph, suggests that architectural design of office environments should place more office workers with increased light exposure in order to promote health and well-being. A working environment with a real focus on natural light all year round can help boost the mental and physical health of workers, so we always integrate as much natural light sources as possible in our interior office design.
Okay, we get it; 46 minutes isn’t really that long when you think about it. But we are speaking in terms of averages here, and a little more sleep is better than a little less sleep, right? The point is, there seems to be a correlation between daylight exposure and sleeping patterns/physical activity and common sense says there is correlation between this and better work ethic and productivity. In addition to this, a regular poor sleeping pattern can raise the risk of developing serious health conditions; obesity, heart disease and diabetes to name just a few. A poor sleeping pattern has even been linked to a shorter life expectancy, so maybe those extra 46 minutes do matter after all…
Here at Office Principles we integrate as much natural light into our office interior design as possible. We believe office design needs to look fantastic, but it also needs to suit its purpose; to provide maximum efficiency, productivity and comfort for employees. By integrating natural light sources you can make sure your employees get all the sunlight they need for that good night’s rest (in order to come into work feeling refreshed and mega-productive, of course…)