SCHOTT solutions no. 2/2011 > Lighting Technology

Light determines our internal rhythm based on the so-called circadian system. The rays of the early morning sun prevent the sleep hormone melatonin from being produced and thus help us wake up. Photo: licht.de

Soothing Light


Medical institutions are increasingly turning to intelligent lighting concepts as a way of helping their patients feel good and brightening up the sterile atmosphere of a hospital.


Thilo Horvatitsch

Whether at night or during the day, in the summer or the winter, light has always determined our rhythm. Over the course of thousands of years, we humans have developed an inner clock that synchronizes our organisms with the 24-hour processes in our surrounding environment: the circadian system (Latin: circa = about, dies = day). For example, this invisible, yet extremely powerful director uses the first morning rays of the sun to give us a wakeup call. The dawning light inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin that makes us feel tired at night, and thus helps keep us awake.

Chronobiology also knows negative effects of such mechanisms: office workers who lack a sufficient dose of daylight often suffer from the “­winter blues” or so-called Seasonal Affective Depression (SAD) during the dark times of the year. Their inner clock is out of rhythm and the hormonal system in the brain is out of balance. In Germany, for example, it is believed that this affects one in ten adults.

Medicine is also making greater use of the fact that light has such a strong influence on our health and well-being. Studies show that biologically effective light can be used to successfully treat the attendant emotional symptoms of premenstrual complaints. Light therapies are being used today to cure depression as well as certain forms of bulimia.

No longer afraid of the MRI scanner

Medical institutions like hospitals, nursing homes and specialized clinics are increasingly relying on intelligent lighting concepts and installations to brighten up the unemotional, sterile hospital environment and their patients’ moods. This clearly has a therapeutic background. People with agoraphobia, for example, find it very difficult to remain inside a magnetic resonance tomography system (MRI) for very long. Nevertheless, practice has shown that anxiety, nausea and headaches occur a lot less frequently in a pleasant atmosphere with appropriate lighting that includes changeable colors on the walls and relaxing music. In fact, in many cases, sedatives no longer need to be administered either. Furthermore, the MRI scan can be performed more successfully and does not need to be repeated because the image quality suffered as a result of patient anxiety. Similar lighting concepts can be used to alleviate fears and achieve better treatment outcomes in intensive care units, ­pediatric examinations and pain treatment. ”Even the nursing staff benefits from the effect of light and feels more relaxed,” adds Jörg Warrelmann from SCHOTT Lighting and Imaging.
Pleasant light helps people who suffer from claustrophobia to relax, even inside an MRI scanner. Photo: SCHOTT/L. Zimmermann
This division of the international technology group has 40 years of experience in the development and application of lighting technology solutions. Its range of products for the healthcare industry includes everything from modern interior lighting to mood and ambient lighting, light panels and contour and reading lights (see info page end). ”We help medical facilities find and set up the right type of ­lighting system that meets their needs. Here, our focus always involves using light as a tool for creating moods, instilling comfort and offering guidance,” Jörg Warrelmann explains.
Whether it‘s reading lights, contour lighting or complete illumination scenarios, light can create moods, instill comfort and provide a sense of orientation in hospitals too. SCHOTT helps medical institutions to come up with lighting concepts that suit their exact needs. Photo: SCHOTT/L. Zimmermann

Differentiation as an added benefit

These can be different approaches and solutions that range from reading lights for dialysis stations to lighting strategies for so-called snoozle rooms in teaching facilities that children can calm down and relax in. Surgical equipment, including tables, swivel arms, lights and supplies, can also be fitted with flexible contour lighting in various colors, for example. These thin fiber optic light conductors are electromagnetically compatible and therefore function even inside a magnetic resonance tomo­graphy system where they are able to help calm down and pre­occupy patients. Optical signaling of the operating status of electrical devices by changing the color of the light is yet another possible application that offers a stronger sense of feeling secure. When the red light glows, for example, this means the X-ray unit is in operation, green means it is switched off or in standby mode.

Nevertheless, the benefit of such modern lighting concepts is not limited to the psychological or signaling effect of light. Their use also demonstrates to patients that the focus is on their overall comfort. Particularly for specialized medical practices and hospitals and their suppliers, this opens up new ways to stand out from the competition. Jörg Warrelmann confirms this and says, ”We are currently supplying samples to major surgical equipment suppliers and beginning to work on projects on mood lighting in MRI treatment rooms. We are also talking to interested parties in the field of dentistry. Time and time again, we hear them say, ”we have been looking for something like this for quite some time.” These medical technicians have now ­literally seen the light. <|

From reading lights to mood lighting

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