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If you’re struggling to sleep at night, there is one simple trick that new research has found, which may help us get a better night’s sleep. All you need to do is expose yourself to more morning light!

It’s been discovered that people who are regularly exposed to bright artificial lights or sunlight during the morning hours will feel less depressed and stressed – leading to a better sleep – than those people who don’t get much morning light.

DaylightThis is due to the fact that exposure to light to light during the day and avoiding bright lights at night time is imperative to keeping our body’s internal clock, known as the circadian clock, in check.

The study, which was led by Mariana Figueiro, showed that office workers or for those who work in outdoors will be more exposed to electric or sun light, which are heavy in ‘blue light’ i.e. the light is made up of short waves.

Figueiro, who is program director at the Lighting Research Centre, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, has been researching light in the context of the level of energy being used in office departments. In particular, a move across the glove to reduce our carbon footprint to reduce how much electricity a business is using.

However, Figueiro is worried that in our bid to become more energy efficient, we are putting our own health at risk, as we need light exposure to help us sleep. And a lack of sleep is actually very detrimental to our work lives, as a lack of sleep leaves us tired, irritable, unmotivated and even unable to process important information.

During her research, which was aimed at seeing if workers got enough light during the day to keep their sleep-wake cycle intact, participants were recruited from government buildings across America. This added to a total of 109 employees, over a week, wearing devices that would measure their exposure to different light sources during the day. This was conducted during summertime, and the experiment repeated in winter with 81 participants again for a week.

During this time the office workers were asked to make observations about their sleeping. This included logging their sleep, when then woke up and at the end of the study filling in questionnaires that asked about their general mood and sleep quality.

The results showed that those people who were exposed to more light during the morning – from around 8am and 12pm – would far asleep far more easier at night. They would also have less sleep disturbances during the night in comparison to those who had low levels of exposure to light. These participants were also far less likely to report having feelings of stress and/or depression.

It was also found that those workers who were exposed to these high levels of light over the full working day – 8am to 5pm – still reported lower depression and better sleep.

So, what does this mean for workers here in the UK? Well if you work in an office that has little natural light, you should try to keep lights on to keep your ‘blue’ light exposure as high as you can. You can also try to go outside on your work break to get in the sun.

It’s also important, on the flip side, that you don’t over-expose yourself to bright lights in the evening, as this is the time that our bodies that our bodies release peak levels of melatonin, which prepares us for sleep. Too much bright light will inhibit this melatonin release and interrupt our sleep. 

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