Why you need to get more daylight

Here’s another reason to get away from your desk later today.

Getting enough natural sunlight each day can impact a person’s mood and sleep quality, as a new study sheds light on the importance of getting enough daylight to make sure our bodies function right.

Let there be light… so you can sleep

The study, which appears in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Affective Disorders, finds that people who spent more time in outdoor light during the day had fewer depressive symptoms, lower odds of using antidepressant medication, and better sleep quality (with less insomnia).

While remote working has eliminated parts of our workday, such as leisurely strolls for coffee or lunch, it’s a reminder that there’s importance in getting outside — not only for the benefits that steps can have on your physical health, but also because of how light plays a role in our well-being.

The study featured responses from over 400,000 people in the UK. It found that participants spend a median of two and a half hours outdoors per day. Researchers said that each additional hour spent outdoors was associated with lower odds of lifetime major depressive order, antidepressant usage, greater happiness, and lower neuroticism.

More daylight also allowed participants to get up easier after sleep, feel less tired, and benefitted other circadian-related outcomes.

The impact of remote work

“People now spend most waking hours in intermediate, artificial lighting conditions, due to reduced sunlight exposure and relatively bright night-time light exposure,” said Monash University associate professor Sean Cain in a statement.

“In this study, we observed that greater time spent in outdoor light was associated with better mood outcomes, better quality sleep, and ease of wakening. Insufficient exposure to daytime light could be a key factor contributing to poor mood and sleep outcomes in depressive disorders. My general advice for everyone is simple: when the sun is out, get as much light as you can, but after it sets, keep it dark. Your body will thank you.”

If you’re someone who feels strapped to the desk during the day, there are small hacks that can help you spend more time outdoors during the workweek.

Health tips

Scheduling regular breaks can remind you to step away from your desk. Although Zoom often requires people to turn on their cameras for conference calls, there are features that can allow people to join calls by phone, which means you could take calls outside during a walk.

Outside of work, exercising — whether running or walking — can also be beneficial. See more health stories.