A better environment for neonatal care

A healing setting for an undeveloped brain. That is the primary priority at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Uppsala University hospital. They have implemented evidence-based circadian lighting to create the optimal nursing environment for the baby, parents, and staff. 

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit treats babies who are born either premature or ill. A premature baby’s body and brain are immature, and the structures develop during treatment at the unit. The time at the hospital can vary from a couple of hours to stabilize the baby right after birth, to weeks, months and in severe cases up to a year.


”It is a very sensitive phase of development. Therefore, the medical care with technology, treatment, and medicine is important but equally central is the care environment and the atmosphere that the parents create together with the baby,” states Jenny Lötberg, Anesthesia and Intensive Care Nurse at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Uppsala University Hospital. “

We need to be careful with the growing brain because all the impressions that it receives can cause it stress. Therefore, we must adapt the environment for the baby and create a healthy setting where the parents thrive. In that way, they can spend as much time as possible with the baby because it is beneficial for the newborn. An important part of the treatment is for the parents to nurse the premature or sick baby through skin contact.

Jenny Lötberg, Anesthesia and Intensive Care Nurse


Circadian lighting 

Passive lighting disrupts the circadian rhythm of the newborn baby and disturbs the healing process. That is why the unit has chosen to implement evidence-based circadian lighting with documented health effects as an active part of the treatment. The circadian lighting changes like the day and night outside and establishes a stable circadian rhythm for the baby, parents, and staff.

”Light, sound, and environmental details are of great importance. A newborn and especially a premature baby are used to a darker surrounding from the mother’s uterus. They can see the difference between light and darkness, and we notice that they dislike strong lighting and instead prefer a restful atmosphere. At the same time, it is critical that the staff and the parents receive daylight. That is why I think the thought-out rhythm throughout the day works very well,” says Lötberg. 



Evidence-based lighting protocol 

The health-promoting lighting company Chromaviso has developed a lighting protocol for the unit which is customized for neonatal care. The protocol is based on research in the field, experience from other units, and Chromaviso’s many years of acquired knowledge in how light affects people. The lighting protocol has been developed in collaboration with the clinical staff at the unit.

”We were impressed by Chromaviso’s science-based and proven methods and the involvement of research in the development of this lighting concept. It felt great for us,” Lötberg explains. 


Light settings

The lighting solution includes various situational settings that both staff and parents operate.

”We can see that the parents like to use the calm, pink-toned lighting or the relaxing amber lighting. They think they are pleasant and give enough light to have a good vision to perform tasks without disturbing the child. Otherwise, we run the circadian light,” says Lötberg. 


The future of neonatal care

Lötberg also suggests how she sees the future in neonatal care.

“I believe that in the future similar solutions will be mandatory to improve the welfare of staff, patients, and parents. It will be a conceived lighting solution after a certain standard. I think that it can make us all feel better. It is proven that blue light during the night disrupts sleep and worsens your health both physically and psychologically. I strongly believe that circadian lighting improves your wellbeing.” 

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