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For Better Health, Consider Offices With Natural Light

Update Date: Aug 09, 2014 02:09 PM EDT

More light exposure at office helps office workers get better sleep, more physical activity, and better quality of life as compared to their counterparts, says a new study.

The study, that was carried out by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, highlighted the importance of exposure to natural light on employee's health.

"The priority architectural designs of office environments should place on natural daylight exposure for workers," said study authors in the press release.

The study found that the employees with a window-setup slept 46 more minutes per night than other employees as they received 173 percent more white light exposure. Employees with windows also tend to have more physical activity, the study added.

"There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day, particularly in the morning, is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism," said senior study author Phyllis Zee, MD, a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist, in the press release. "Workers are a group at risk because they are typically indoors often without access to natural or even artificial bright light for the entire day. The study results confirm that light during the natural daylight hours has powerful effects on health." 

The study considered a group of 49 day-shift office workers, out of which, 27 were put in windowless workplaces and 22 were given workplaces with windows. The health-related quality of life and sleep quality were measured. The sleep quality was evaluated with the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Actigraphy was used to measure light exposure, activity and sleep, the press release informed.

"Light is the most important synchronizing agent for the brain and body," said Ivy Cheung, co-lead author and Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience in Zee's lab at Northwestern. "Proper synchronization of your internal biological rhythms with the earth's daily rotation has been shown to be essential for health." 

"Also, people who get more light during the day may sleep better at night, which can also help improve health," Zee noted.

Findings of the study have been reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

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