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Study Suggest Better Lighting in Hospitals Could Improve a Patient’s Stay

Update Date: Oct 30, 2013 03:15 PM EDT

Even though staying at a hospital benefits sick patients, it does not mean that the stay will be enjoyable at all. According to a new study, patients who are hospitalized could attribute their pain and energy level to the amount of lighting they get. The researchers, headed by Esther Bernhofer, Ph.D., RN from Cleveland Clinic, reported that if hospitals adjusted the lighting, patients might feel less pain, less fatigue and will sleep much better.

Before starting the study, Bernhofer and colleagues examined previous studies that found a relationship between light and mood. These studies suggest that people are happier during sunny days as opposed to cloudy days. Based on these findings, the research team set out to find relationships for lighting, mood, pain and sleep in the hospital setting. The team observed 23 female and 17 male adult patients that were hospitalized at a large academically affiliated hospital in the United States between May 2011 and April 2012.

For 72 hours straight, the researchers measured light exposure and each patient's sleep-wake patterns. Sleep-wake patterns were recorded by monitoring when patients slept and when they were awake throughout the day. The researchers also recorded patients' moods by administering daily questionnaires. Pain levels were gathered from medical forms.

The researchers found that the patients who lived in the hospital with low levels of light 24 hours a day had worse sleep-wake patterns. The low levels of light appeared to negatively affect their bodies' ability to differentiate between daytime and nighttime. This lack of natural fluctuation of different kinds of lighting resulted in poorer sleeping patterns. Less sleep then contributed to more fatigue, which led to more complaints regarding pain. The researchers believe that their findings provide good evidence that hospitals could improve patients' stay and wellbeing by creating a more balanced day through lighting.

"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 Bernhofer reported by Medical Xpress. "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 hospitalized patients, providing for overall better patient outcomes."

The study was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

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