Building Types

Improving health for night shift workers through design

The negative impact of artificial lighting on the circadian rhythms of night shift workers can be successfully mitigated through design following the WELL Building Standard

By Dave Weatherly May 20, 2021
Courtesy: Albert Vecerka ESTO Photographics/Page

Night shift workers face unique physical and mental challenges imposed by their schedules. The circadian rhythm is driven by sunlight so typically, human bodies produce hormones throughout the day that alternately elevate awareness and productivity with sleepiness. Unsynchronized biological clocks can adversely affect body temperature, thirst, appetite, mood, immunity, cell repair and other critical functions.

Since a majority of employees spend over 90% of their worktime indoors, the WELL Building Standard addresses poor working conditions, food choices, stress, and how these conditions affect the daily health of building occupants. It is a combination of environmental health, building design, human health and behavioral factors.

Designers can mitigate potential sleep problems for healthcare workers by using advanced LED lighting that mimics the rhythm of natural sunlight. Courtesy: Albert Vecerka ESTO Photographics/Page

Designers can mitigate potential sleep problems for healthcare workers by using advanced LED lighting that mimics the rhythm of natural sunlight. Courtesy: Albert Vecerka ESTO Photographics/Page

Designers can mitigate these with advanced LED lighting that mimics the rhythm of natural sunlight. Color selection can affect the rate of eyestrain and the reduction of blue light commonly found in electronics can be achieved through either selection of newer hardware or universal software downloads.

While the benefits of exercise rooms are obvious, nap rooms are not as widely seen in traditional offices. NASA recognized the crucial role of sleep for its astronauts and experimented with short naps during the workday. Performance skyrocketed and today, the “NASA nap” is a common practice among employees whose jobs don’t “follow the sun” such as on-call doctors and international airline pilots.

Employee-centric programs combined with WELL Building Standards also can improve overall performance of night shift workers.

This article originally appeared on Page’s website. Page is a CFE Media content partner.


Dave Weatherly
Author Bio: Dave Weatherly, PE, LEED AP, RCDD, senior electrical engineer, Page, a CFE Media content partner.