Research shows that having a windowed office does more than signal status: It also means you’re getting a better night’s rest — and with rest comes productivity.
Heaps of research show that getting enough sleep speeds your decision-making and learning ability, while sleep deprivation does the opposite.
And, according to Northwestern researcher Ivy Cheung, working next to a window by day could have a profound effect on your night.
In a pilot study presented in June of 2013 at the annual SLEEP 2013 meeting, Cheung and her colleagues tracked the behavior and light exposure of 49 day-shift office workers — 27 worked in windowless workplaces and 22 worked in workspaces with windows.
The results: “Compared to the group with no windows,” Cheung and her colleagues write, “workers with windows in the workplace had 173% more white light exposure during the workday and slept an average of 47 minutes more per night.”
While the study is preliminary and only found a correlation between sleep and natural light exposure during the day, the findings seem to make sense.
Bright white light from the sun provides a signal to our bodies, cuing our cycles of sleep and wakefulness. If you don’t get enough sunlight, studies suggest, your body won’t have the same cues that it needs to get ready for bed.
This is also why using your smartphone before bed is a bad idea: The bright, blue-colored light sparks your brain’s wake-up cycle, right when it should be shutting down.
While being starved of natural light is more a problem for workers crammed into the windowless open office than managers lounging in the well-lit corner suite, the insight has impacts on management. Research shows that sleep-deprived people aren’t just irritable; they have a tougher time remembering things and take stupider risks.
Not only that, but horrible things happen to your health if you don’t get enough sleep.
Cheung and her colleagues outline a few options to getting around the problem. For one, they say that offices should be designed to provide more windows to workers. But if you can’t knock down any walls, a cheaper option could be investing in light therapy.
As the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine reports, light therapy uses a high-intensity, full-spectrum lamp for 30 to 90 minutes once you wake up, which helps set normal sleep-and-wake rhythms. If you’re sleepless and windowless, look into the Happy Light 6000 or the Verilux HappyLight Liberty VT20.
GET MORE SLEEP: 25 Horrible Things That Happen If You Don’t Get Enough Sleep