Hospital treats psychiatric patients... with orange light

A NORWEGIAN hospital is using orange light to reduce hyperactivity and anxiety in psychiatric patients.

The lighting control system at the acute care centre at Saint Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim removes the blue component from the light completely from 6pm in the evening in a bid to boost levels of the body's sleep hormone, melatonin.

Creating this special light environment at the 20-bed Saint Olav's Hospital required integrated planning and development.

The patients must remain indoors throughout the day and night in an area where the light is controlled and carefully planned. During the day, the lighting resembles daylight but from 6pm onwards, it changes to orange light. This lasts until 11pm, at which point an orange light is dimmed to 25 per cent until 6am in the morning.

When the orange light is on with no blue light is emitted, it appears that the body releases more melatonin in the blood. The patients appear to become more tired and less hyperactive. For many people with bipolar disorder, the hyperactive phase involves a conspicuous absence of sleep, and treatment with orange light may therefore result in more normal sleeping patterns, say doctors at the facility.

In the daytime, the dynamic white-light tuning LED system varies the colour temperature between warm and cold. The cold white light in the morning suppresses melatonin production while increasing the production of the stress hormone cortisol.

This helps to make the patients and employees more energetic in the daytime and tired in the evening. Their improved sleep rhythm is the product not only of the therapeutic orange light, but also of the artificial daylight.

Creating this special light environment at the 20-bed facility required integrated planning and development. Patients' rooms, corridors, bathrooms, living rooms and recreational areas are all linked to a shared control system which ensures that the correct light is provided. Patients can dim the light in the room where they are, but a special light switch ensures that only the permitted light type is available. The doctor in charge can keep track of everything on a screen, and can also check individual lighting for each patient.

Because the zone in which the bipolar patients are situated must be without natural daylight, all windows are equipped with special filters. To avoid mishandling and damage, all lights are recessed in walls or ceilings.

Lars-Fredrik Forberg, concept manager for human centric lighting at Glamox, who supplied the lighting, told Lux: ‘To produce the orange light, we have to blend various light sources: there's a mix of red, blue, green and white LEDs’.

One challenge was to completely remove the blue light. ‘Today we can remove about 99 per cent of the blue light,’ says Forberg. ‘So we had a discussion with the researchers about how much blue could be left in the light. It's demanding from a technical point of view.’ He points out that much of the technology used is off-the-shelf, but some equipment, such as certain fittings, needed to be specially made.

‘The unique thing about this building was the tailoring. For these institutions to invest money in a facility like this is both courageous and impressive. The hospital owners learned about the research in this field, and commendably took the initiative to further it. Other hospitals have already expressed interest in the facility and will be following developments.’


  • The 2018 Lighting for Health and Wellbeing conference takes place at the Cavendish Conference Centre in London on 26 September 2018. Details to be announced HERE.