Your Windowless Soul-Sucking Cubicle Is Killing Your Sleep

By Alyse Borkan  |  Sep 2, 2014
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Have you ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder? It’s when you get depressed in the winter, partly because you can’t spend as much time outside enjoying the little sunshine that creeps through the cold, dark days.

Researchers have discovered something similar: Office Positioning Affective Disorder, or OPAD for short. (We made up the name “OPAD.” Forgive us. All other facts presented here will be, in fact, factual.)

A recent study found that workers who sit in windowless offices get less sleep and physical activity than those who get exposed to sunlight throughout the day. The lucky ones by the windows sleep longer and get a higher quality of sleep overall.

To get to the bottom of OPAD, researchers surveyed 49 office workers, 22 of whom sat in “windowless environments,” or at least far away enough from the windows that they couldn’t see outside. The 27 workers who sat near windows rated their sleep quality and “vitality” much higher than their windowless counterparts on a subjective sleep questionnaire.

For hard evidence, the researchers outfitted 21 participants (11 sat by windows) with an activity monitoring wristband. They found that those poor, sad windowless office workers got about 46 minutes less sleep and were four times less active during the workday than their luckier coworkers.

Light exposure of all kinds deeply affects your circadian rhythms, which affects how you sleep. An office worker staring at a computer screen, sitting in a dark, windowless room all day is bound to mess up his sleep schedule. And this becomes all the more clear because, even on weekends, workers with windows got more and better rest.

Researchers conclude that architects have to be conscious of these findings. When designing an office, there should be open floor plans and everyone should have windows. It’s the only way to end the onslaught of OPAD.

– Josh Segal


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