Wake Up! Human-centric Lighting Boosts Hospital Performance and Patient Recovery

Impaired sleep has long been a consequence of time spent in hospitals – affecting patients and caregivers alike.  Patients struggle with physical discomfort, noise, interruptions and inappropriate light exposure.  Caregivers suffer the consequences of long hours, shift work and, yes, inappropriate light exposure.

Enabling the performance of visual tasks, controlling the body’s circadian system, affecting mood and perception, and triggering critical chemical reactions in the body are just some of the ways lighting influences human performance and well-being. Daytime exposure to either sunlight, or just a few hours of bright‐light therapy, is proven to have a positive effect on patient recovery, length of stay, delirium, depression, anxiety, and use of pain medication.

The work environment in hospitals is inherently stressful.  Caregivers are required to perform a range of complex tasks, everything from, charting, filling prescriptions, administering medication to brain surgery. Irregular day/night light cycles, common in healthcare facilities, disrupt circadian rhythms, sleep, mood and productivity. Studies have shown that dim night-shift conditions make caregiving and medical decision-making more difficult. Staff working rotating-shifts, particularly those working night shifts, are likely to experience sleepiness, decreased productivity, and impaired safety while on the job. Sleep deprivation, fatigue or drowsiness contribute to:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Irritability
  • Poor or impaired judgment
  • Impaired reaction times

All, unwanted and conditions in a healthcare environment.

Since light affects a body’s circadian system, using effective lighting technology can improve patient sleep quality, reduce depression, and decrease the length of stay.  For staff, effective lighting can ease the adjustment to night-shift work and improve performance.

Savings Beyond Dollars and Cents

Since most hospitals have limited access to natural, daylight, artificial lighting plays a crucial role in day-to-day operations.

Although LED lighting is usually perceived as an energy and cost savings initiative (LED lighting can reduce lighting energy costs up to 70%), upgrading to human-centric LED lighting and controls also produces measurable improvements to a hospital’s performance in terms of patient recovery times, patient experience, staff performance, and job satisfaction. Effective lighting also helps reduce accidents and errors and improves security for both visitors and staff.

Bright Light or Right Light?


Since sunlight provides a balanced spectrum of colors, with elements in all visible wavelengths, why shouldn’t your indoor lighting do the same?

An upgraded, LED smart lighting system can provide light that is more responsive to human needs and behaviors.

Researchers have found that exposure to blue light during the day directly improves alertness and performance. Blue-enriched white light stimulates the brain, improves alertness, performance, and sleep quality. Accordingly, initial research suggested that night-shift workers should be exposed to blue light at night – since blue light reduces melatonin production (the hormone that makes you sleepy). More recent research has revealed that suppressing melatonin and disrupting circadian rhythms results in increased health risks. The study indicated that using warmer, red light, at night improves alertness and performance, without suppressing melatonin or interrupting the circadian rhythm.

New, human-centric lighting technologies – which allow light color and intensity to change from one range to another throughout the day and night – enable hospitals to maximize the beneficial effects of light for human health, productivity, and safety.

Multiple research studies have found abundant evidence connecting upgraded LED lighting with improved patient healing. Other patient benefits may be less obvious. For example, when McLaren Health Care System in Michigan upgraded 11 of its primary hospitals with smart LED lighting systems, they found that, in addition to cost savings and improved performance, they could reduce noise levels in the evening. Dimming the lights in patient and visitor areas at specified times, signaled that it was time to quiet down and allow patients to rest.

Any hospital space where people spend significant amounts of time can benefit from human-centric lighting systems. These would include:

  • Patient rooms
  • Nurse stations
  • Neonatal intensive care units
  • Post-acute care units
  • Critical care units
  • Lobbies
  • Emergency departments
  • Cafes
  • Parking locks and decks

Designing, installing and monitoring human-centric lighting is a rewarding but complex procedure.  To achieve maximum return on investment, it requires partnering with an industry-leading energy services company familiar with the special needs and challenges facing hospitals (think SmartWatt).

In healthcare, energy savings is only one of the ROIs of an LED, human-centric lighting upgrade. Many of the improvements achieved will affect bottom-line issues, but the impacts on staff efficiency and patient well-being far outweigh the cost savings.

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