Natural light and mood

Exposure to natural light during the day is strongly linked to energy, mood, sleep and overall quality of life, which lack of natural light is implicated in insomnia, irritability, distraction and depression.

The presence of natural light is especially important in the workplace. According to researchers at Northwestern University’s neuroscience program, an abundance of natural light boosts morale, improves motivation and workplace performance and promotes feelings of peace and calm, while harsh, artificial light triggers headaches and tends to make people feel nervous, uneasy or fatigued. In some cases, absence of natural light triggered such extreme feelings of exhaustion that individuals were unable to maintain a normal working schedule.

Researchers have determined that natural light influences the body’s circadian rhythm, a built-in process also known as the natural clock. Light turns the natural clock on and off, thus dictating the sleep-wake cycle and driving a number of other biological functions, including body temperature and release of certain hormones including serotonin, the brain’s natural mood stabilizer.

An interesting study revealed that prisoners with windows overlooking a buildings or walls, along with inmates residing on the ground floor, experienced significantly higher rates of illness and stress than prisoners with window views, especially those on the second floor.

Natural Light in the Classroom

Natural daylight has a tremendous impact on students and teachers, influencing attention span and absenteeism. Hyperactive children exposed to natural or full-spectrum lights were calmer and better able to deal with learning problems. Students in windowless classrooms tend to have more difficulty concentrating. They frequently display stress, agitation and hostile behavior and may complain about headaches and eyestrain.

The human race has long understood and revered the powerful qualities of sunlight, as indicated by the numerous depictions of the sun’s rays on ancient artifacts and cave walls.

Today, special light boxes or full spectrum lights that mimic outdoor light are often used as a substitute for natural sunlight, and results have been positive. However, natural sunlight is always best, and many businesses go to great lengths to ensure workers are located near a window.

How Natural Light Complements Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Rehab

Early research indicates that natural light benefits people struggling with seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder. Some believe it may be a useful adjunct to drug and alcohol treatment and rehab. Light may also help with insomnia that plagues individuals during the early days of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

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