We know it’s great for our health to be outdoors, but most of us have no choice but to be stuck indoors for most of the day. You might spend 8 hours or more in a tiny cubicle with bright fluorescent lights bearing down overhead, the nearest window nowhere in sight. Unfortunately, this lack of natural light can affect your health.
One study exposed participants to either 6 hours of natural light (from windows) or 6 hours of artificial light. The natural light group felt more alert and performed better on cognitive tests. These mental benefits translate directly into increased productivity, with studies showing anywhere from a 2.8% to a 15% increase in productivity. The benefits of natural light also extend beyond performance. Another study found that workers who were exposed to natural light slept 46 more minutes at night, exercised more and reporter having higher overall quality of lives than the windowless group. Another study found that nurses who were exposed to natural versus artificial light had lower blood pressure, talked and laughed more and were in better moods. Natural light has also been found to lower stress and improve recovery rates of patients.
When you can’t be outside, be sure to open your blinds and get as close to windows as possible. If you’re stuck in a cubicle (and don’t want to pull an Office Space and knock over the front part of your cube) then you should take breaks throughout the day and get outside or at least closer to a few windows. Artificial light isn’t that bad for you during the day, but exposure to it at night is especially harmful to your sleep and is associated with other negative health outcomes.