While the American Medical Association has come out with guidelines that recommend minimizing the blue component of LED streetlights (Ref: article), lighting made to mimic natural sunlight has some proven beneficial effects. Exposure to white light with a bluish tint in the morning has been found to help people awaken more readily and become more energized. On the other hand, exposure to white light with a red tint that mimics sunset has been found to help people relax and sleep better.
For this reason, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital installed a state-of-the-art LED lighting system to mimic natural sunlight and perhaps help patients heal. The hypothesis is that promoting natural circadian rhythms will aid in the healing process.
Long-term exposure to conventional artificial lighting in hospitals with limited exposure to sunlight has numerous adverse effects. The most pronounced of these is sleep disturbance with sleeping during the day and waking many times per night.
Doctors at Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital hope to reduce this sleep disturbance by mimicking sunrise and sunset with LED lighting to promote natural circadian rhythms. At sunset, the pineal gland naturally starts producing more melatonin about 2 hours before the onset of sleep. Similarly, exposure to reddish white light has been shown to increase the production of melatonin like it does at sunset.
The converse is also true. Blue-tinted white light helps suppress melatonin production and helps energize.
“Patients might wake multiple times during the night, then try to sleep during the daytime. Their body’s sleep schedule becomes disturbed,” said Pediatric Pulmonologist and Sleep Medicine Physician Helena Molero, MD, who sees patients at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. “There may be simple ways we can help their sleeping patterns and boost recovery.”
Masonic Children’s Hospital has collaborated with Phillips Lighting North America to test a new LED lighting system intended to improve comfort and accelerate healing. The hospital is studying the effects of the lighting on the patients of the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. In addition to medical findings, the system design takes into account input from patients, families and care providers, all of whom consider the hospital’s lighting to be critically important.
This LED lighting system will deliver light in specific wavelengths for specific periods of time. Patients can also use a remote to control the lighting based on their personal preferences and needs. They will be able to start a dynamic light show. The light show may help distract them during an uncomfortable procedure, or break up the boredom during a long hospital stay.
Once the installation is completed, researchers will begin to study how the variable lighting system affects patient’s recovery, the length of hospital stay, and other health-related metrics.
“The way patients react to light is an emerging area of study for many hospitals around the nation,” said Molero. “At Masonic Children’s Hospital, we’re exploring whether light might enable the body to heal more effectively with the promotion of healthy sleep patterns. By conducting research around our new lighting system, the hope is that we can improve our care delivery and patient outcomes.”
The lighting systems provided by Philips Lighting will be implemented in four pediatric ICU rooms. Funding for the project comes from the generosity of donors to the Hospital’s Adopt A Room program in which individual and corporate partners sponsor the private, customized rooms that are intended to promote better health outcomes and accelerate healing through a combination of their research-based, family-centered design and smart-room technology.