dog sleeping sleepNursing home residents get fragmented sleep that can place them at risk for poor health outcomes, including depression and increased frailty. That’s according to Rosa Baier, an associate professor of the practice in health services, policy and practice, who directs the Center for Long-Term Care Quality & Innovation at the Brown University School of Public Health.

EurekAlert’s recent article entitled “Tuned lighting helps nursing home residents get better sleep, study finds” says that Baier and a team of colleagues identified an new way to reduce the number of sleep disturbances experienced by residents in one California nursing home by 50%. It didn’t involve prescribing sleeping pills. The facility instead installed interior lighting fixtures that change color and intensity over the course of the day and night.

“I think it’s pretty novel,” Baier said of the tuned lighting solution, which mimics natural light occurring during a 24-hour day. “The technology continues to evolve, and so one of the reasons we wanted to study these lights was that there hadn’t been research done on this kind of lighting.”

Baier was in charge of a team of seven researchers who studied the use of tuned LED lighting at ACC Care Center in Sacramento, California. The team’s results were published in Seniors Housing and Care Journal and established preliminary data that can be used as providers in the long-term care industry consider the adoption of tuned lighting in other facilities.

Previous studies showed that nursing home residents were apt to get too little light during the day and too much at night. The researchers randomly assigned corridors, where a total of 63 long-term care residents experienced either tuned or static lighting conditions for two months, then switched the corridors to the other lighting. The tuned lighting brightened corridor lighting in the day and dimmed it during the night. The static condition looked like the fluorescent lighting in place at the facility, prior to installation of the tunable fixtures.

Over half (35) of the 63 residents had been diagnosed with dementia, which is associated with conditions that include delusions, hallucinations, depression, agitation, anxiety, disinhibition, irritability and wandering. The mean age of residents in the study was 88.3 years old and 71% of them were women. The study saw that, on average, the residents experienced 3.6 nighttime sleep disturbances with static lighting, compared to just 1.8 with tuned lighting. Baier explained that the results are not all that surprising because that the research team hypothesized the intervention would have a positive effect on sleep.

“We do know that there is a relationship between exposure to natural light and circadian rhythm, and circadian rhythm is important for healthy sleep,” Baier said. “It’s very reasonable to think that this might be a particular problem in this setting and something that we could address through environmental practices.”

The study proposed that improving the sleep of even a few residents can have a positive effect on roommates and those staying in nearby rooms. Many of the residents in the study share rooms of two to as many as four people. Other research has shown that the sleep habits of roommates can often determine whether a resident has a good night’s sleep.

“People are prone to focus on the negative aspects of nursing homes, but the majority of people who I’ve encountered are really caring individuals and are doing some very innovative practices,” Baier said. “This is an example of a facility that’s very engaged and very proactive.”

Reference: EurekAlert (Oct. 6, 2020) “Tuned lighting helps nursing home residents get better sleep, study finds”