As Canadians prepare to turn back clocks, the Indoor Generation report highlights the importance of exposure to daylight on our circadian rhythms!
A survey by YouGov of 16,000 people worldwide reveals that 65 percent of Canadians believe daylight affects their productivity. Fifty-six percent think exposure to daylight affects their sleep.
Numerous studies have proven the role of daylight in promoting a good night’s sleep while highlighting the negative impacts a lack of daylight has on health.
“Exposure to light-dark cycles is an absolutely crucial part of our biology and that’s due to the role of light in resetting our circadian clock each and every day,” said Dr. Steven Lockley, neuroscientist and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “It resets our clocks to be in tune with environmental time, and light is the primary time-cue. If you’re exposed to higher light levels and bluer light in the daytime, then you get a better stimulant effect. You’ll be more alert and have better cognitive function; potentially be more productive at work and so on.”
The global survey was commissioned by global skylight manufacturer VELUX for a report called The Indoor Generation, aimed at highlighting the importance of living in healthy homes and the role fresh air and natural light play in them. Initial findings revealed that over half of those surveyed believe they spend between 6-10 hours outside each day; in reality findings from the US Environmental Protection Agency show that on average people only get outside for about 2.5 hours each day – that’s 90 percent of their day inside.
“It’s clear that many people across the world believe that daylight has a notable impact on their sleep and productivity and it’s very likely that there’s some truth in these beliefs. Studies have revealed that the daily light dose might be too low among people in the Western countries,” said Peter Foldbjerg, Head of Daylight, Energy and Indoor Climate at The VELUX Group.
As the days become shorter during the switch to Standard Time and colder, the importance of getting enough daylight is even more acute. A review published by the National Research Council Canada suggested that inadequate exposure to daylight could be detrimental to our wellbeing.
Our body clocks are informed by the different levels of daylight in a 24-hour period, we need plenty of light during the day and darkness at night to ensure a good night’s sleep. Some of the consequences caused by poor sleep include depression, diabetes, heart disease and weight gain. Other side effects linked to poor sleep include higher risk of work accidents, reduced concentration and low mood and difficulties in making decisions.
Daylight can also help enhance productivity.
As many as 63 percent of people polled globally in the YouGov survey said that daylight influences their productivity. The link between daylight and office productivity has also been widely investigated and various studies show that daylight and a view to the outside increase performance at work.
Workers in a call center were processing calls 6 percent to 12 percent faster when they had the best possible view versus those with no view. Other office workers, meanwhile, were found to perform 10 percent to 25 percent better on tests of mental function and memory recall when they had the best possible view versus those with no view.
“One relevant question to raise, with these findings in mind and the fact that personnel costs typically account for 90 percent of a business’ operating costs: Do the offices and schools offer the right thinking-environment that boosts the performance of employees and children’s learning?” Foldbjerg said.
Top tips for improving your sleep.
- Increased exposure to daylight will help you sleep at night – sitting near a window at work or school and making an effort to get outside more will also help with this
- Eliminate light from the outside to enter your bedroom at night
- Sleep in a cooler bedroom
- Avoid looking at electronic devices (TVs, smartphones / tablets) which distribute blue light before going to sleep – this can trick the brain into staying alert at the wrong time of day
- Establish a good bed time routine – read a book instead of having more screen time
- Give children a red or orange night light if they are afraid of the dark as these are the least disruptive to sleep