Can light improve patient health?

Changing lighting patterns in hospital rooms to match normal sleep-wake cycles could help patients feel better with less fatigue and pain, a new study suggests. 

Researchers found that when humans are exposed to bright light during the day, mood and sleep improve. Because of the low light levels in hospitals and the huge change in what people are used to, patients often have difficulty sleeping. The findings from the Journal of Advanced Nursing point to biodynamic lighting as a relatively inexpensive way to improve patient care.

Dr Esther Bernhofer of Cleveland Clinic and her colleagues conducted a study to determine if there is a relationship between hospital lighting, mood, sleep and pain in adult patients.

Between May 2011 and April 2012, the investigators collected data from 40 people admitted to a large academic US hospital. Over 72 hours, light exposure and sleep-wake patterns were continuously measured. Mood was measured daily using questionnaires, and perceived pain levels were determined from medical records.

The research team found that hospitalised patients were exposed primarily to low levels of light 24 hours a day, indicating a lack of the natural fluctuation between bright and low light required to help maintain normal sleep-wake patterns. Patients slept very poorly, and the less light patients were exposed to during the day, the more fatigued they felt; the higher the level of fatigue, the more pain that is experienced.

‘It is important to note that these findings were preliminary and more research needs to be done to determine any possible clinical implications of enhancing the lighting environment for patients in the hospital,’ said Dr Bernhofer. ‘Future intervention studies should include investigating different 'doses' of light exposure for medical inpatients. Such research would determine if lighting interventions could offer unique, cost-effective ways to more effectively address the problems of sleep-wake disturbances, distressed mood, and pain in hospitalised patients, providing for overall better patient outcomes.’

Dr Bernhofer has already begun planning her next project. She is working on a proposal for a study that involves providing unique cost-effective lighting for patients in their hospital rooms and measuring certain physical and psychological outcomes. 'Hopefully the outcomes of this research will translate into better healing and outcomes for hospitalised patients,' she said. 

Story updated 11/11/13

Comments

No comments yet.

Leave your comment