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The effects of daylighting and temperature on your productivity and health

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Have you ever wondered why you get more stuff done on a sunny day compared to a rainy day? Noticed that you work better when you’re close to a window? Does your mood seem to always be better when you’re out in the sun? You might be thinking to yourself yes, I have! But why? The answer to all of these questions is a simple one – natural light energizes you and increases your productivity. And that is exactly why you should consider the practice of daylighting.

Daylighting
Daylighting is defined as the illumination of buildings by natural light, through the strategic placement of skylights and windows. The goal of this practice is both to harness natural light and to make a room visually appealing. There are many benefits to the practice of daylighting – the lowered cost of lighting is usually focused on the most. However, the use of natural light has incredible benefits to both business productivity and your overall heath.

Natural light is, to put it simply, sunlight. Humans need to absorb sunlight to function properly – it provides us with vitamin D[1], kills bacteria, and even lowers cholesterol and blood pressure[2]. In a perfect world, every room would be open and full of natural light during the day. We would get our fill of it. We would be healthy and happy. Unfortunately, for most offices and workspaces, this is not the case. If a worker is placed more than 25 feet away from a window, they will receive no natural light, as the rays are unable to travel that far. This is according to Dr. Mohamed Boubekri, who co-authored a study[3] regarding light and how it affects health, which appeared in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Sunlight also plays a factor in regulating the temperature in a workspace.

Temperature
Heat is also a factor linked with daylight. If a room receives light, the temperature goes up. The University of California[4] asserts that once your body temperature rises, more of your bodily energy must be dedicated to getting rid of that heat. This means that your brain and muscles must, subsequently, use less energy. If your body can’t get rid of the heat quick enough, then your sweat glands activate so you don’t overheat.

On the other hand, if an environment is too cold for your body, more of your energy is dedicated to keeping your body comfortably warm. This, in turn, slows your muscle movements and diminishes your mental faculties[5]. Basically, if you’re too cold or too warm, your body has to work overtime to maintain a comfortable temperature. Maintaining a balance between hot and cold is a key factor is both your productivity and your health.

Productivity
Productivity is very dependent on the environment in which you work. This goes beyond the distractions of desk trinkets and posters – daylight and heat play very deep roles in how well you work. With heat, perhaps, the connection is obvious. If you’re not at a comfortable temperature, then less of your energy goes to the task you are working on and you make more mistakes as a result. According to Fast Company[6], a magazine specializing in innovation in the business world, employees working in a cooler environment will make up to 44% more mistakes than employees working in a comfortably balmy environment.

Sunlight also affects productivity. Have you ever experienced that late-afternoon crash in energy? Chances are good that this is due to a lack of exposure to natural light. Artificial sources of light make you fatigue faster, make more mistakes, and shorten your attention span. Exposure to natural light increases alertness, as stated by a study conducted by Dr. Mirjam Münch[7]. Münch also asserts that exposure to artificial light takes its toll on productivity over time – the more consecutive days you are exposed to it, the worse your performance tends to be.

Health and Well-Being
Not getting enough natural light during the day has several effects on the human body— people who do not get enough natural light often have a vitamin D deficiency, issues with sleep, and are more likely to have problems with mental health. If you are in an environment with dim or artificial light for too long, your brain will also release cortisol[8], which is also known as the stress hormone. This spike in cortisol puts stress on your body and suppresses your immune system, changes your metabolism, and blood sugar levels[9].

Your Circadian Rhythm – your body’s natural clock – is also vastly affected by whether you spend your time in natural or artificial light. Natural light is the most important aspect in the synchronization of your natural clock[10]. If you spend too much time in dim or artificial light, you sleep 46 minutes less[11] and get less energizing sleep than an individual who was exposed to natural light during the day. This lack of restful sleep can lead to other problems as well – including memory loss, poor communication practices, and even symptoms of anxiety and depression[12].

It should go without saying by this point – sunlight is imperative for a happy and healthy life. If you’re interested in developing a daylighting strategy, Suntuitive Glass can help! Visit www.Suntuitive.com or call 616.662.7216 for more information.

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/
  2. http://www.bristolite.com/blog/from-mildew-to-mood-7-health-and-environmental-benefits-of-natural-light/
  3. http://www.aasmnet.org/jcsm/ViewAbstract.aspx?pid=29503
  4. http://ucanr.edu/News/Heat/How_heat_affects_the_body/
  5.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1483770
  6. http://www.fastcompany.com/3001316/want-more-productive-workers-adjust-your-thermostat
  7. http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/bne/126/1/196/http://lrt.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/04/22/1477153514531518.abstract
  8.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201301/cortisol-why-the-stress-hormone-is-public-enemy-no-1
  9. http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20140814/employees-benefit-from-natural-light-study-finds
  10. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201306/exposure-natural-light-improves-workplace-performance
  11.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25424517

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