The era of circadian lighting in health care is dawning

With relevance to the design of psychiatric hospital wards (and beyond) …

Stacey Burling reports for The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

“The Medical Behavioral Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia [CHOP] was an unusual concept from the start. The first of its kind in the nation, it would be a special place for kids with medical problems who also had underlying behavioral conditions such as depression, anxiety, and autism.

That called for a special design. Although there’s no doubt that this is a hospital, the obvious decorative features of the unit — the subtle but cheery colors, the stylized nature art — are soft and soothing, neither depressing nor overly stimulating.

What’s not so obvious is the light. It puts CHOP at the forefront of a new trend — circadian lighting — that is picking up steam in health-care settings and, to a lesser degree so far, schools, high-tech workplaces, and warehouses.

The idea is to tune indoor lights to mimic the brightness and color spectrum of the sun as it changes during the day. Think bright, bluish light in the morning that gradually grows more amber at dusk and ultimately gets as dark as is possible to get in a medical environment. There’s growing evidence that proper light exposure can help keep our circadian rhythms — the body’s internal, 24-hour clock — in sync with the sun. That can improve sleep, mood, and metabolic function. It’s particularly important in hospitals and nursing facilities, where illness, long exposure to dim artificial light, and frequent wakening at night can cause disrupted sleep and behavior problems …”

Read more here.

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