The impact of daytime light exposures on sleep and mood in office workers

Sleep Health. 2017 Jun;3(3):204-215. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2017.03.005. Epub 2017 Apr 23.


Background: By affecting the internal timing mechanisms of the brain, light regulates human physiology and behavior, perhaps most notably the sleep-wake cycle. Humans spend over 90% of their waking hours indoors, yet light in the built environment is not designed to affect circadian rhythms.

Objective: Using a device calibrated to measure light that is effective for the circadian system (circadian-effective light), collect personal light exposures in office workers and relate them to their sleep and mood.

Setting: The research was conducted in 5 buildings managed by the US General Services Administration.

Participants: This study recruited 109 participants (69 females), of whom 81 (54 females) participated in both winter and summer.

Measurements: Self-reported measures of mood and sleep, and objective measures of circadian-effective light and activity rhythms were collected for 7 consecutive days.

Results: Compared to office workers receiving low levels of circadian-effective light in the morning, receiving high levels in the morning is associated with reduced sleep onset latency (especially in winter), increased phasor magnitudes (a measure of circadian entrainment), and increased sleep quality. High levels of circadian-effective light during the entire day are also associated with increased phasor magnitudes, reduced depression, and increased sleep quality.

Conclusions: The present study is the first to measure personal light exposures in office workers using a calibrated device that measures circadian-effective light and relate those light measures to mood, stress, and sleep. The study's results underscore the importance of daytime light exposures for sleep health.

Keywords: Circadian rhythms; Light exposure; Mood; Phasor analysis; Sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Photoperiod*
  • Seasons*
  • Sleep / physiology*