The Advantages of LED Hospital Lighting

The Advantages of LED Hospital Lighting

Previously, incandescent and fluorescent light fixtures were the light source of choice for hospitals. But as both LED technology and healthcare facilities improve, flickering dull light is being replaced with warmer, more human-centric illumination. The transition to LED lighting not only allows hospitals to provide better service to their patients, but reduces maintenance and energy costs so resources can be spent on people rather than bulbs. Read below to learn more about how LEDs offer better illumination and options for caregivers and their patients.

Color Temperatures and Circadian Rhythm

LED lights are available in several shades of white. These shades are referred to as a bulb’s correlated color temperature (CCT). CCT is measured in Kelvin (K), which is similar to degrees in Celsius. Different temperatures on the Kelvin scale represent different colors. For example, light at 2000K-3500K looks more orange/yellow and is called ultra warm or warm white, and as temperature increases in Kelvins, color changes to more of a “paper white” known as natural or neutral white (between 3500K and 5000K) and finally into a bluish-white known as cool white (5100K-20000K).

Throughout the day, light changes from a warm white color at dawn to natural white then to a cool white in the afternoon, back to natural white, and eventually to an ultra warm white color at sunset. Our bodies are used to this cycle of light. Artificial lights that deviate from the natural lighting cycle can throw off our circadian rhythms. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences, states that, “Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment.”

According to “. . . different types of light trigger different physiological effects. Blue/white light, akin to a bright midday light, suppresses melatonin and increases serotonin, this light is great for activity. Conversely red/orange light triggers melatonin in preparation for going to sleep. If everything is in balance, the body will generate dopamine, serotonin, cortisol and melatonin in the right quantities at the right time of day.” Various researchers have found that when circadian rhythms are off, anything from sleeping disorders to irritability and illness can occur.

In hospitals and healthcare centers, it’s important that patients and staff have access to cool white light that’s similar to daylight. Dr. Anajali Joseph, director of research for the Center of Health Design, writes, “Several studies have documented the importance of light in reducing depression, decreasing fatigue, improving alertness, modulating circadian rhythms, and treating conditions such as hyperbilirubinemia among infants. Further, the presence of windows in the workplace and access to daylight have been linked with increased satisfaction with the work environment.” Windows are the best method of accessing daylight, but cool white LED lights—along with the right color temperatures at the right times—can have the same effect on the body.

Warmer color temperatures lead to the release of melatonin, which causes drowsiness. This is appropriate during bedtime hours, but causes problems for those who need to stay awake, such as overnight nurses and doctors. Introducing natural or cool white light to hallways, operating rooms, and nurse stations can help hospital staff, especially overnight workers, feel more alert and energetic.

No Health Risks

Fluorescent lights contain mercury that can be released if a bulb breaks. Mercury is toxic and can be harmful if absorbed through skin or inhaled. To reduce the risk of harm, the EPA has a list of cleanup procedures, such as having everyone leave the room, opening doors or windows, shutting off heat and air-conditioning systems, and other specific instructions.

Fluorescent and incandescent bulbs also emit low doses of UV radiation that can damage not only facility materials but can also damage skin and eyes. According to a study published in PubMed Central® (PMC) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, “Chronic, low-dose UV exposure can cause cumulative skin damage.” An article on discusses the results of another study that had similar findings. In this article, it is said that, “. . . exposure to the (fluorescent) bulbs could lead to premature aging and cancer.”

Continued UV exposure is also harmful to the eyes. A study published in PMC about fluorescent lighting and eye health states that, “Fluorescent lighting may increase UV-related eye diseases by up to 12% and, according to our calculations, may cause an additional 3,000 cases of cataracts and 7,500 cases of pterygia annually in Australia.” The possibilities of eye and skin damage are significant factors to consider for a facility whose purpose is to heal.

LEDs contain no mercury, and unless they’re specifically UV bulbs, they emit very little to no UV radiation. These factors alone make them a better choice for health care facilities. Not to mention that—unlike fluorescent bulbs—LED lights won’t flicker or emit any color spikes. Color fluctuations and flicker can cause negative effects, such as headaches and dizziness. When used for hospital lighting, LED bulbs and fixtures can improve overall health and eliminate the possibility of additional health risks posed by fluorescent and incandescent bulbs.

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