Sunlight is better known for synthesis of vitamin D in our bodies and for improving our moods. But what is less appreciated is that it can also make us more productive.
If you study in sunlight (not direct exposure, though), you’ll be significantly more alert, less drowsy in the afternoon, thereby increasing your productivity. As a result, you’ll have a more effective study schedule and you’ll be able to study longer without getting tired.
Daylight significantly improves alertness in the afternoon, implying you can study longer without getting tired
In a recent study, Mirjam Muench et al exposed two groups of people to six hours of either artificial light or daylight for two days and found that:
Compared to the afternoon, people who had DL (Daylight) were significantly more alert at the beginning of the evening, and subjects who were exposed to AL (Artificial light) were significantly sleepier at the end of the evening.
And on the second day when they measured performance of the two groups on cognitive functions, DL group performed better, which is a significant takeaway for you if you’re performing cognitive tasks of even moderate difficulty in the evening.
Besides, artificial or poor lighting results in drop in cortisol (adrenal hormone) levels, which could lead to mild depression and sleep disruption. This, in a way, is also supported by this study which says that on sunny days our brain produces more mood-lifting chemical serotonin than on darker days.
Studying in daylight can also boost academic performance
Daylighting in Schools, 1999
This study, completed for Pacific Gas and Electric in 1999, examined more than 21,000 elementary school students in the school districts of Seattle (Washington), Fort Collins (Colorado), and San Juan Capistrano (California). In Seattle and Fort Collins, the students in classrooms with the most daylighting were found to have 7% to 18% higher end-of-year test scores than those in classrooms with the least daylighting. Whereas, in San Juan Capistrano, where the study measured improvement between fall and spring test scores, students exposed to most daylighting progressed 20% faster (than those with the least exposure) on math tests and 26% faster on reading tests in one year.
Daylighting in Schools Reanalysis Report, 2001
This study, completed for California Energy Commission in 2001, further investigated the results from Capistrano district. It considered twelve different models to rule out any biases such as better teachers being allocated to classrooms with better daylighting, and it supported the earlier results: it found 21% improvement in student learning rates of students in classrooms with the most daylighting compared to those in the classrooms with the least.
Fresno Study, 2003
However, the study undertaken in Fresno (California) didn’t find any association between higher levels of daylight illumination and better student performance.
Can some artificial lights substitute daylight?
Full-spectrum lights are believed to be closest to sunlight spectrum. However, independent studies dispute advantage of such lights over regular household lights.
But if you’ve little to no access to daylight, the best you can do is not study in poorly-lit place.
Studying in daylight will keep you more alert in the evening than studying in artificial light. Try it on your own – study for a day or two under a CFL with little exposure to sunlight and then in the corner which receives sunlight – and you’ll notice the difference. However, avoid glare and uncomfortable temperature, which may happen in some cases.
Question: Do you study in daylight? If yes, do you notice any difference vis a vis when you study in artificial light?