When workers can't get outdoors during the day, sitting next to a window is the next best thing. The light exposure can improve sleep quality and physical well-being.
People who work next to windows sleep better and are more active than workers who don't, a study presented at a conference found.
To improve office workers' physical and mental well-being, the researchers said that indoor lighting can be emphasized in the architectural design of future workplace sites and enhanced in offices with insufficient daylight.
The aim of the study, led by Ivy Cheung, MS, a doctoral candidate in the Interdepartmental Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, was to see how natural light at a workplace affected individuals' physical activity, sleep and quality of life.
The study included 49 day shift office workers who were surveyed on the quality of their sleep and their quality of life. A little more than half had windowless workplaces and the rest had window access.
About half of the participants, 10 who had windowless workplaces and 11 who had windows, also underwent actigraphy readings to measure their sleep-wake patterns, light exposure and activity.
Actigraphy measures the cycle of activity and rest over a period of time.
Workers who had window access slept 46 more minutes on average each night, the researchers found. This group was exposed to white light nearly three times more than workers who did not have window access.
In addition, those who worked next to windows slept more efficiently and had more activity than workers who did not have windows.
"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," Cheung said in a press release.
Workers who did not have windows had poorer sleep scores and more limitations due to physical problems and poorer strength compared to workers who had windows.
In addition, workers without windows had more daytime dysfunction and disturbances during sleep at night.
There were no differences in gender, age, race and amount of time spent working in current light levels between the two groups.
The study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented June 4 at SLEEP 2013, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC.
The National Institute of Health and the Research Board of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, supported the study.