Researchers study how hospital lighting at night may hinder heart patients' recovery

Researchers at Morgantown-based West Virginia University are investigating how round-the-clock brightness in hospital rooms may impede recovery for cardiac patients.

In earlier work, the researchers found a light no brighter than a small nightlight could trigger inflammation in the brain, overload brain cells and increase cardiac arrest patients' mortality risk.

To add to these findings, the researchers are now evaluating the physiological mechanisms that connect light at night to neurological damage — and a greater mortality rate — after cardiac arrest. They also want to find whether certain wavelengths of light are more harmful than others.

To accomplish this, the researchers will expose animal models of cardiac patients to different amounts and wavelengths of light at night. Next, they will measure the models' brain inflammation, determine the extent of brain cell damage and evaluate how heartbeats adjust to meet the body's changing needs. They will then find which lighting environments lead to the best health outcomes.

"The circadian system is affected by short-wavelength light, which is blue, like from your phone or tablet. Fluorescent light is also quite bluish. But if we can use longer-wavelength lights — sunset colors — that doesn't affect the circadian clock," said researcher Randy Nelson, PhD.

Replacing the fluorescent bulbs in hospital rooms with sunset-toned bulbs could enable the hospital staff to administer drugs, operate equipment and monitor patients at night without disturbing their circadian clocks and hindering cardiac arrest recovery, the researchers said.

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Patients' financial concerns can affect ICU care, study finds

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