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Study finds improving lighting patterns could help hospital patients

Friday November 8, 2013
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Changing the lighting patterns in hospital rooms to make the rooms more aligned with normal sleep-wake cycles could help patients feel better with less fatigue and pain, according to a study.

Researchers said the findings, published Oct. 27 on the website of the Journal of Advanced Nursing, point to a simple and inexpensive way to potentially improve patient care.

Esther Bernhofer, RN, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues designed a study to investigate the possibility of relationships between hospital lighting, mood, sleep and pain in hospitalized adults.

Between May 2011 and April 2012, the investigators collected data from 23 women and 17 men admitted to a large, academically affiliated U.S. 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 researchers found hospitalized patients in the study 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.

Also, patients slept very poorly, and the less light patients were exposed to during the day, the more fatigued they felt. The more fatigued they felt, the more pain they experienced. “Low light exposure significantly predicted fatigue and total mood disturbance,” the authors wrote.

Bernhofer noted the findings are preliminary, with more research required to determine the possible clinical implications of enhancing hospital patients’ lighting environment.

“Future intervention studies should include investigating different ‘doses’ of light exposure for medical inpatients,” Bernhofer said in a news release. “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 hospitalized patients, providing for overall better patient outcomes.”

Study abstract: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jan.12282/abstract


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