Even the healthiest people can suffer from an afternoon slump at work. Too often, the not-so-healthy solution is to grab another coffee or energy drink. While stimulating, this does not help us to function at our best.
If the afternoon is the low point of the day at work, then winter is the worst time for absenteeism. Research shows that much of this is related to anxiety, stress and depression. Depression and lack of energy – symptoms of SAD – are at their worst during January and February, when there is the least amount of bright light available naturally.
Some people have no choice about their light exposure, working unsocial hours through the night. Our body clock, responsible for our sleeping and waking patterns, makes it hard to adjust quickly to reversed sleep patterns. It can be difficult to feel awake on a night shift, or sleep well the following day.
Improving productivity through light therapy
A misaligned body clock is the reason we have times at work when we feel sluggish and find it hard to concentrate and get going. Bright light first thing from a lightbox or waking with Bodyclock gives a natural energy boost that sustains performance all day.
The brightest office only provides about 500lux, compared to the 2,000lux of Zest and 10,000lux of Brightspark and Desklamp, which are all designed to be used easily at work. Exposure to bright light at work, for as little as 15 minutes, can prevent the mid-afternoon dip. Treating the symptoms of SAD with light can tackle many of the causes of winter absenteeism.
Studies show that an off-kilter body clock due to night shifts can be treated effectively with scheduled exposure to bright light at night, causing an uplift in alertness, performance and quality of daytime sleep. NASA was the very first organisation to make practical use of lights to alter circadian rhythms. They still use light therapy for astronauts and ground crew.
Whatever hours you work, extra light when you're awake will help to convince your body clock that it's daytime so that you're alert when you need to be and you sleep better when you get home.
For more information read the guide to Light therapy at work.