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Alternating ward light levels 'reduces patient fatigue and pain'

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Changing lighting patterns in hospital rooms so they are more aligned with normal sleep-wake cycles could help patients feel better with less fatigue and pain, according to US nurse researchers.

They found mood and sleep were better when patients were exposed to brighter light during the day, suggesting that alternating lighting could provide a “simple and inexpensive way” to improve care.

Over 12 months the researchers collected data from 40 patients admitted to a large hospital. Light exposure and sleep-wake patterns were continuously measured over 72 hours. Mood was surveyed daily and perceived pain levels were determined from medical records.

The researchers found inpatients were exposed mostly to low levels of light 24 hours a day, indicating a lack of the natural light fluctuation needed to maintain normal sleep-wake patterns.

In addition, they found the less light patients were exposed to during the day, the more fatigued they felt, and the more fatigued they felt, the more pain they experienced.

“Higher light exposure was associated with less fatigue and lower total mood disturbance in participants with pain,” the researchers said online in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Lead author Esther Bernhofer, from the Nursing Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, added: “These findings were preliminary and more research needs to be done to determine any possible clinical implications of enhancing the lighting environment for patients.”

She said future work should investigate if lighting interventions could offer “unique, cost-effective ways” to reduce sleep-wake disturbances, distressed mood, and pain among inpatients.


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