Sunlight can help you sleep better, study says

Sunlight breaks out of cloud cover over a part of Orchard Road.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night? The cause may lie in how much sunlight you're getting during the day.

According to a recent study, those who work under direct sunlight or bright indoor lights are more likely to get a more restful sleep and are less likely to feel depressed than those who don't get as much light.

The study team found that light exposure during the day was critical, as it helps in calibrating one's "circadian" clock.

While many offices seemed to be moving toward reducing light in the name of preserving energy, exposure to daylight or electric lights that are rich in "blue" light may be key to workers' health, according to the study's lead author, Mariana Figueiro, programme director at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.

"Much has been done to reduce light levels to promote energy efficiency, which is important, but we may be going too far in this direction," she said, as quoted by The Star, "We need to start thinking about how we light our daytime environments."

The team assessed 109 government employees who were wearing light-measuring devices for a week during the summertime to track their exposure to light.

The workers then logged their sleeping hours and answered questions relating to their sleep quality and mood. Eighty-one of the participants repeated the experiment in the winter.

"Individuals should think about their lighting environment at work, and also some of their habits during the day [and before bed]," said Ilia Karatsoreos, an associate professor of integrative physiology and neuroscience at Washington State University in Pullman.

"There are many easy things we can do during the day to increase our exposure to sunlight that could have beneficial effects on mood and sleep for many people," Karatsoreos continued.

"Perhaps leaving your desk and getting out in the bright sun for lunch could help."

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