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The power of natural light and patient healing

April 10, 2017

Learn more about the positive side effects of drawing light into hospitals and its benefits on patient healing

Light is vital to human functioning and it plays an important role on both our psychological and physiological condition. Substantial research shows that daylight positively impacts patients’ well-being, improves their recovery time, reduces mortality rates, as well as their pain and stress.

Designing to heal

While architecture itself cannot heal, in recent years, the concept of Healing Architecture has acquired substantial momentum for its understanding and deliberate effort in creating functional spaces that enhance patients’ physical and mental healing process.

As patients in hospitals already are in a vulnerable state, the need for optimal conditions to support their recovery is critical. The lack of natural light for patients can have devastating effects on their healing process. There are many ways to bring daylight further into the building, for example, by utilizing the light reflection and light diffusion of the wall or ceiling surface.

Health outcomes for light specific designs

There are a number of important benefits given to patients with ample access to natural light. Here are some interesting facts on the impact that daylight can have on a patient’s recovery:

  • Better sleeping patterns – Access to natural light regulates the body’s circadian system and prompts the brain to suppress the production of melatonin, increasing sleep efficiency from 77.5% to 90% and recovery time.
  • Lower agitation – Patients in hospitals have shown to display higher levels of agitation in rooms with less light.
  • Post-operation delirium – Daylight has been shown to help with a patient’s memory location, their ability to orientate themselves, reducing the number of hallucinations after being sedated.
  • Supporting recovery – Patients recovering in sunlit rooms had a positive effect on their mental well-being, reducing the amount of pain killers taken after surgery.
  • Reduced hospitalization times – A link has been established between exposure to light and recovery times of patients. The healing time of patients located in the southern wing of the hospital had less time, 16.9 days, in recovering than their counterparts in the northern wing 19.5 days, 2.6 days less.
  • Fewer hospital mortalities – Researchers also found that there was a higher mortality rate among patients being treated in rooms facing the northern side (39/335) of the hospital vs. those facing the southern side (21/293).

To help patients in their healing process, it is important to consider the effect of architecture on patients’ mental and physical well-being. As with most buildings, drawing sunlight into a hospital can be an architectural challenge.

With a lack of light in hospitals and the substantial evidence highlighting the importance of natural light indoors, it is critical to build health care projects that propagate light into recovery rooms.

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