Study: Better lighting could improve patient sleep, comfort

More natural light may reduce hospital patients' pain and help them sleep, according to a new study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

The researchers, led by Esther Bernhoefer, Ph.D., a nursing education specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, collected data from 23 women and 17 men at a large academically affiliated hospital between May 2011 and April 2012. Over 72 hours, they measured each patient's light exposure and sleep-wake patterns, used questionnaires to analyze their moods and determined their subjective pain levels based on medical records, according to the study.

The team found that the patients were exposed to low levels of light 24 hours a day, depriving them of the transition from light to dark that maintains normal sleep-wake patterns. "Even the brightest hospital patient rooms in this study provided very low light exposure during the day or night in all seasons," they wrote. They further found that increased light exposure correlated with lower levels of fatigue and pain. 

However, Bernhoefer said in a statement that because the subject population was too small, the industry needs more research to draw more accurate conclusions, according to "Such research would determine if lighting interventions could offer unique, cost-effective ways to more effectively address the problems of sleep-wake disturbances, distressed mood, and pain in hospitalized patients, providing for overall better patient outcomes," she wrote.

With patient satisfaction now affecting hospitals' Medicare reimbursement, it's important that hosital find ways to minimize patient pain and fatigue.The Cleveland Clinic has created an Office of Patient Experience to fine-tune employees' empathy and patient engagement skills, and Massachusetts General has also implemented empathy training, FierceHealthCare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- here's the article