Why is it so much harder to wake up in the morning without daylight? Not only is sunlight more inspiring to wake up to in the morning, but it signals to your brain that it’s time to get moving. The mechanism that controls feeling awake and sleepy is called circadian rhythm, or chronobiological rhythm, and this is influenced primarily by daylight. While blackout curtains in the bedroom can be helpful for sleeping in, you might want to think twice about getting them if you have trouble waking up. Daylight is a physiological stimulant for the visual system and circadian rhythm, so it can help boost your energy to start your day right.
If working inside for long periods with no sunlight makes you tired, you’re not alone. Daylight exposure during the day is essential for alertness and functionality, and it can significantly influence work productivity. In fact, it has been ranked as one of the top 10 most important factors to a quality work environment. Daylight can even affect work attitudes and experiences. A 2014 study comparing the health of workers in offices with and without windows revealed that limited daylight exposure during the day can result in reduced vitality, poorer sleep quality, and physical problems.
How can individuals protect themselves from the problems associated with a lack of daylight exposure? The bigger picture solution includes improved office architecture that increases daylight in indoor work areas. Two simple remedies to increase exposure for the average office worker are (1) taking a walk during a break, and (2) enjoying lunch outdoors.
There are a couple days of the year where timekeeping standards affect circadian rhythm, and those are the days transitioning in and out of daylight savings time (DST). The loss or gain of an hour is enough to affect our circadian rhythm. During the switch to standard time, where we gain an hour, most people end up getting more sleep and are not affected negatively. However, the loss of an hour due to the switch to DST can have some surprisingly far-reaching impacts.
On this day, people average 40 minutes less of sleep, which doesn’t sound too bad. But each year on the Monday following the switch to DST, over 2,600 more workdays than average are lost due to work injuries. This reflects an increase in workplace injuries of greater severity. There is also an increase in miscarriages, heart attack risk, and suicide rates associated with the chronobiological change. Additionally, DST takes a huge toll on the economy. In US markets, it equates to a single-day loss of $31 billion.
So why do we keep using DST if transitioning to it causes so many problems? Only 33% of Americans still support the use of DST, as the associated issues have become apparent. There are many pros and cons of DST that consider other factors beyond health and sleep. The gains in productivity from switching to standard time are negligible, definitely not enough to outweigh the losses in life, property, and money from the switch to DST.
While we can’t control the time that everyone adheres to, we can control our individual sleep schedules. Getting to bed an hour early before the switch to DST is recommended. For all other days, aiming for 8 hours of sleep per night is your best bet to ensure maximum productivity and safety for yourself. Rest well for the best tomorrow!