Lighting for Preventive Health Care

Along with food, water, air, and exercise – LIGHT is a vital pillar of human health and wellness

DJCoalition recently was part of the design team to renovate the Park Nai Lert Hotel to become the Movenpick and BDMS Wellness Clinic. With the purchase of land at Park Nai Lert BDMS took it’s important first step in starting a health care service that focuses on preventive care, and light is an important part of their care strategy.
To learn more about how light can drive health outcomes:
You can see the full video with the design team on our YouTube channel here.
You can download a pdf with lighting design applications for health care projects here.

Light is responsible for turning on the brain and the
body. Light enters the body through the eyes and skin,
when even a single photon of light enters the eye, it
lights up the entire brain. This light triggers the
hypothalamus, which regulates all life sustaining bodily
functions, the autonomic nervous system, endocrine
system, and the pituitary (the body’s master gland). The hypothalamus is also responsible for our body’s
biological clock. It also sends a message, by way of light, to the pineal organ, which is responsible for releasing one of our most important hormones, melatonin. This necessary hormone affects every cell in the body. It turns on each cell’s internal activities, allowing them to harmonise with each other and nature.

A significant weight of research tells us that light has healing qualities. Light, through the suppression or stimulation of our melatonin production, affects every cell in our body, light turns on each cell’s internal activities allowing or body to replicate and restore cells. Important ways that light directly effects our health are:

Quality of sleep
Sleep quality is key to preventive care and maintaining health. It has also been linked with reducing the risk of dementia. Adequate exposure to the right kind of light at the right time of day reinforces our natural daily life rhythms to synchronise our day/night cycle with time. Cooler white, bright light – matching daylight during the day – stimulates our body, increasing alertness and energy. Warmer white, softer light – matching light at dusk – encourages the production of melatonin that relaxes us and prepares us for rest at night. You can read more about that here: Spectral Tuning of White Light Allows for Strong Reduction in Melatonin Suppression without Changing Illumination Level or Colour Temperature – PubMed (nih.gov)

Improving our cognitive function
Cooler white, bright light – matching daylight during the day – stimulates our body, increasing alertness and energy. Warmer white, softer light – matching light at dusk – encourages the production of melatonin that relaxes us and prepares us for rest at night. You can read more about that here: Impact of daytime spectral tuning on cognitive function – PubMed (nih.gov)

Improving mood, fighting depression
Exposure to the correct lighting during the day decreases symptoms of depression in patients. Application of this research is being explored for the treatment of people with dementia. You can read more about that here: Lighting and Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias: Spotlight on sleep and depression – MG Figueiro, HC Kales, 2021 (sagepub.com)

The colour of light also affects our mood. One example is pink light, which has a calming effect. A particular shade (named drunk-tank pink) is used in detention cells as the colour has a moderating effect on anger and agitation after just 10 minutes.

Reducing the recovery time of patients
Light is widely recognised for its healing qualities, with more medical journals focusing on the benefits of light therapy. Studies show how the healing effect of light replicates and restores cells. Within hospitals light exposure shortens recovery times for patients, reduces inflammation and promotes wound healing. You can read more about that here: (Giménez et al., 2017). Importantly exposure to the correct levels of light enhances the patient’s positivity and perception of wellbeing leading to documented reductions in the request for painkillers.

To build on this research and harvest the healing power of light we recommend the following lighting design applications when designing for health:

Application 1: Dynamic Lighting solutions
Our bodies respond positively to daylight exposure, particularly in the mornings. However, our modern urban lifestyle restricts the exposure possible. Therefore, it is imperative that the artificial lighting in health care simulates daylight as closely as possible in the following ways:

  • Dawn simulation of lighting at the start of days with light rich in blue slowly increasing in intensity.
  • Provide light with a relatively high ‘blue’ content and high intensity during the daytime. Target times during which humans are more sensitive to light, with specific attention to the morning time.
  • Avoid high light intensities and blue‑rich light in the evenings. Dim the lights and use warm tones of light, such as red/amber light or low colour temperatures, in the 2 hours prior to bedtime.
  • The importance of no (or very limited) light during the night is to support sleep quality. This may be particularly important for vulnerable patients in, for example, intensive care units.

Application 2: Personalised Lighting Solutions
Taking into account the physiological differences between people there is a need for lighting that is adjustable depending on personal needs. Therefore, provide light systems that can be personalised for patient rooms:

  • For visual acuity the elderly require approximately twice the intensity of light – 6000lx – than middle aged people – 3000lx – for similar results.
  • For ‘older age’ lighting solutions, provide elevated light levels but homogeneous light distribution for lower brightness contrasts to support aged users to remain engaged.
  • Increase light intensities for people who spend limited time outdoors during the day. The intensity of day and evening light should be individually adjustable, while the change in spectral composition may occur automatically.

Application 3: Lighting vertical surfaces
Our eye is naturally sensitive to the illumination of the vertical plane as it is more dominant in our view than the foreshortened horizontal plane. Recent research in the lighting industry has shown that our response to the brightness of vertical surfaces benefits us psychologically and well as physically. Illumination of walls is particularly beneficial in the following health applications:

  • In patient waiting areas light vertical surfaces make spaces seem larger and brighter. The illumination of walls helps us to relax and orientate ourselves to identify the focus of each space.
  • In work areas, such as nurse stations, light reflected from illuminated walls reduces contrast and therefore eyestrain. It reduces fatigue in staff and promotes concentration.
  • Older eyes are more susceptible to glare, which can cause discomfort and fatigue. In aged care facilities light walls and ceilings to create soft, diffused indirect light to avoid harsh shadows and create a natural, flattering look.

 Application 4: Use of Coloured light
The effects of colour on our emotions are well known. But with the recent discovery of new receptors in our eye, more evidence is being discovered that proves colour affects us in ways that go far beyond simple vision. Using coloured light in the correct applications can bring about the following benefits in health care:

Blue lighting has a special effect on the body in a variety of ways as it powers our circadian rhythm. It improves cognitive performance and when we are exposed to it in the morning it improves our quality of sleep. Blue lighting absorbed through our skin also increases blood flow which can ultimately remove pain in the body and promote healing.

Red and amber tones stimulate the production of melatonin which prepares us for sleep. In hospitals, warm tones of red/amber/yellow lighting are used to create a relaxed and cozy atmosphere, which can help patients get to sleep at night.

Violet light kills mould and has been found to inhibit “superbugs” like MRSA and C. difficile. In hospitals, violet light, and UV light in protected environments is used for disinfection methods.

Green is a calming colour which conveys soothing and healing. Green lighting was first introduced into operating rooms in 1914 by Dr. Harry Sherman as it complements haemoglobin red, the colour of blood, to create a more visible environment for surgeons.

 

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