Want to sleep better? Get more sunshine!

bed with sun photo
CC BY 3.0 odolphie

Put away those pills that promise better sleep. If you want a more sound slumber, go enjoy the sunshine.

A new study looked at the sleep quality of 49 office workers -- 27 who sit in windowless workspaces, and 22 who have windows in their workspace. It turns out those with windows received an average of 173% more natural light exposure during work hours, and slept an average of 46 minutes more each night than their windowless peers.

Forbes reports, "Workers who get more sunlight also tend to be more physically active according to this study. And an additional analysis of overall quality of life suggests that they’re generally happier, too. Office workers without windows reported more physical ailments and lower vitality, along with lower sleep quality."

Happiness, exercise and better sleep, all thanks to more time in the sun. It seems like this should come as no surprise. We need sunlight to keep our circadian rhythm going, which tells our bodies when to be awake and asleep. We also need sunlight to get vitamin D, which plays a role in many aspects of our health.

Even if you are stuck in an office that doesn't have much natural light during the day, you can help yourself get better sleep at night by getting a good dose of sunshine early in the morning. The early-morning sunlight helps set your circadian clock correctly. How Stuff Works writes:

"How does morning light improve sleep? The light helps to regulate your biological clock and keep it on track. This internal clock is located in the brain and keeps time not all that much differently from your wristwatch. There does, however, appear to be a kind of forward drift built into the brain. By staying up later and, more importantly, getting up later, you enforce that drift, which means you may find you have trouble getting to sleep and waking up when you need to.

"To counter this forward drift, you need to reset your clock each day, so that it stays compatible with the earth's 24-hour daily rhythm -- and with your daily schedule. Exposing yourself to light in the morning appears to accomplish this resetting."

So something as simple as taking a walk first thing in the morning (if you wake up with the sun) or walking or cycling to work in the morning sunshine can all help you get better sleep at night. Extra time in the sun, such as lunch-time walks wouldn't hurt either.

It shouldn't take a study to tell us that spending more time in our natural environments, even if that just means enjoying the sun, makes us healthier people. But in case you were waiting for some researchers to prove it, well, here is your evidence.

Tags: Health

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