It’s long been known that sunlight plays an important role in regulating our internal body clock.
Just think how much easier it is to get out of bed on a bright sunny day compared to a grey, rainy morning. But now scientists have shown that being exposed to sunlight throughout your working day can have a surprisingly large role in determining whether or not you’re headed for sleepless nights.
A study published in the Journal of Sleep titled “Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality ofLife” compared workers who had access to natural daylight and those in windowless offices.
The study concluded that there was a “strong association between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep quality, activity patterns and quality of life”.
Compared to the group with no windows, day-shift workers with windows slept on average 47 minutes longer per night. “We were surprised that the quality and length of sleep differences were that large,” said Dr. Mohamed Boubekri, one of the co-authors of the study and a professor of architecture at Illinois University.
Ivy Cheung of Northwestern University was also surprised at the findings. “The extent to which daylight exposure impacts office workers is remarkable,” said the co-author of the study. “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,” she added,
Light is the most important external cue for our circadian rhythms, the internal clock that dictates our sleep wake-cycle.
This ‘master clock’ is located in a bundle of nerve cells in the brain known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Scientists have shown that destroying this part of the brains results in a complete absence of a sleep-wake cycle.
People with disrupted circadian rhythms are prone to sleep disorders whose side effects can include obesity, diabetes and depression.