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Mother sits with infant in amber circadian light in the neonatal ward at Akademiska Sjukhuset in Uppsala
Ane EskildsenJune 7, 20212 min read

Circadian Lighting is Enhancing Healing and Health in Neonatal Ward

Creating a healing environment for the underdeveloped brain is the top priority at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Akademiska Sjukhuset Uppsala. That's why they have chosen to implement evidence-based circadian lighting to provide optimal care and environment for the children, parents, and staff.

Children who are born prematurely or with other health conditions are treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). During their stay in the unit, these babies' bodies and brains are still immature and developing. The length of their hospitalization can vary from a few hours to weeks, months, and even up to a year in extreme cases.

— This is a highly sensitive phase in the development of these little ones. That's why medical treatment, including technology, treatments, medication, as well as nursing care and the environment in which they are admitted, are crucial. The atmosphere we create together with the parents is also important, says Jenny Lötberg, an anaesthesia and intensive care nurse in the NICU.

Circadian lighting

Static lighting disrupts the newborn's circadian rhythm and healing process. That's why the department has chosen to incorporate evidence-based circadian lighting with documented health effects as an active part of nursing care. The circadian lighting changes in sync with the day and ensures a healthy sleep-wake cycle for children, parents, and staff.

— Every detail of lighting, sound, and the entire surrounding environment with proximity to the parents is of great importance. A newborn, especially a premature baby, requires a slightly darker environment. They can distinguish between light and dark, and we can see that they are not happy with bright light, but prefer a cosy environment. At the same time, it is important for both staff and parents to have natural daylight. That's why circadian lighting works really well, explains Jenny Lötberg.

Evidence-based lighting protocol

The lighting company Chromaviso has developed a lighting protocol specifically designed for the neonatal and newborn departments. This protocol is based on extensive research, experiences from other departments, and Chromaviso's years of knowledge on the impact of light on human beings. However, the protocol was also created in close collaboration with the clinical staff in the department.

— We were impressed by how scientifically proven methods were used and how the research was involved in the development of this lighting model. It felt good for us, says Jenny Lötberg.

Light settings

The lighting solution includes various situation-adaptable light settings that can be used by both staff and parents.

According to Jenny Lötberg, parents prefer the calming pink light or the atmospheric amber light. They find it pleasant and it provides enough illumination for them to see what they are doing without disturbing the baby. In addition to the pink setting, Jenny and the rest of the staff most often use the circadian lighting setting.

Future neonatal care

After the implementation of circadian lighting, Jenny Lötberg envisions a bright future for the intensive treatment of newborns.

— I believe that in the future, there will be a demand for similar solutions to ensure the well-being of staff, patients, and parents. There should be a circadian lighting solution that adheres to specific standards and documentation, just like our current solution. This will promote health and wellness. We know that incorrect lighting at night causes sleep disturbances and worsens both physical and mental health. I am convinced that you will feel better with circadian lighting, she concludes.