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Lighting in Healthcare Spaces

Lighting in Healthcare Spaces

The SimTigrate Design Lab has conducted several projects surrounding sleep and other impacts of light in healthcare spaces. Our early work characterized the functions lighting needs to perform in an in-patient environmentto support quality care delivery. One finding has been that the current design of lighting in these environments is insufficient in achieving these functions.

A recently improved understanding of the physiology of the eye has created new opportunities to use lighting to impact various aspectsof daily life, including alertness and mood. Lighting technology itself also has advanced: we now have access to LED lights that can be tuned and dimmed to specific color temperatures. These factors provide promising potential impacts in healthcare environments.

Lighting and Awareness

Considering the impacts of mild cognitive impairment on sleeping patterns and mental fatigue, the proposed research aims to test whether bright light can positively affect people with MCI by evaluating their alertnessin response to higher-intensity lighting conditions. Further analysis will also evaluate whether a bright light condition is considered pleasant. The conclusions can inform future design interventions in lighting inside homes of older adults with cognitive decline.

TMCity Lighting Project

Science has revealed more about how exogenous factors—our behaviors and the external conditions we experience throughout the day and at night—affect our ability to achieve restorative sleep at night. Sleep interruptions have many causes, including aging, disease, pain, and pharmaceuticals. The physical environmentespecially lighting as well as behaviors such as late-night electronic usage also are important contributors to sleep disruption.

Recent researchon the effects of lighting hasshown that the spectrum of lightand its intensity, duration, and distribution can have important non-visual impacts, such as increasing alertness, improving mood, and helping sleep. However, little research has focused on people with MCI, and we are is studying how lighting and noise can impact cognition and alertness for people with MCI.This project aims to evaluate the lighting characteristics of the built environment ofthe CEP members and to define the possible correlations withsleep disorders for thispopulation.

Sleep Disruption as an Avoidable Patient Harm

This project began as a study in collaboration with healthcare manufacturer Hillrom to examine the impact of inpatient environments on sleep. Using mind maps and literature reviews, SimTigrate studied the different ways sleep is disrupted, considering both intrinsic and extrinsic factors, to answer the straightforward question: Does sleep disruption matter? We discovered that sleep disruption is a significant enough problem that it needs to be addressed in healthcare settings, as it contributes to several physiological outcomes, including length of stay, level of pain, and medication costs. We also found that although there are other significant drivers, lighting affects sleep in significant ways.

Pacific Northwest National Lab Studies

Excited by our sleep disruption project findings, the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) reached out to collaborate on a lighting project. Together, we are researching potential impacts that new tunable, dimmable LED lighting technology can have on alertness, mood and sleep.

This has led to a series of studies conducted with PNNL focused on nurses’ perceptions of different lighting conditions while simulating various nursing activities. The paper on these findings is forthcoming. A second study was conducted focusing on the acceptability of these new lighting technologies to patients, studying the effects of tunable, dimmable lighting on the patient experience. PNNL is providing expertise about the impact of such lighting on people with mild cognitive impairment participating in the Cognitive Empowerment Program.


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