Can office windows impact sleep, activity & quality of life?

The key to a good sound slumber at night could be something as simple as working in an office with windows! Natural daylight exposure seems to contribute to employee well-being, finds a new study.

According to experts, employees who had white light streaming through office windows, slept longer at night, were more active during the day and scored higher on quality of life measures.

The study’s lead author Ivy Cheung, a doctoral candidate in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, said, “The extent to which daylight exposure impacts office workers is remarkable. 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.”

49 day-shift workers studied
The main objective of this study was to investigate the advantages of working under natural sunlight against artificial lighting. Researchers tracked 49 day-shift office workers, 27 of whom worked in a windowless workplace and 22 in office with windows.

There were no variations in terms of age, race, gender or years at their current job between the two groups. Most of them were university clerical employees. The participants underwent the Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), test to assess their general quality of life and sleep quality, respectively.

The study clearly favored employees working in offices with windows. Subjects with windows in the workplace received 173 percent more white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes longer each night as opposed to those employed in window less offices.

A subset of 21 participants monitored
Investigators also studied 21 participants, including 10 windowless workers and 11 workers with windows separately. They evaluated light exposure, physical activity and sleep-wake patterns with the help of actigraphy (a wrist device which monitors record motor activity and other sleep-related factors like light and temperature).

The study found workers employed in windowless environment exhibited poor quality of life than their counterparts. Additionally, they scored low on measures of overall sleep quality, sleep efficiency, sleep disturbances, and daytime dysfunction.

Researchers concluded, “Enhanced indoor lighting for those with insufficient daylight in current offices as well as increased emphasis on sufficient daylight exposure in the architectural design of future office environments may improve office workers’ physical and mental well-being.”

The research was published in an online supplement of the science journal Sleep and presented to a meeting of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.