Sleep Disturbance and the Change from White to Red Lighting at Night on Old Age Psychiatry Wards: A Quality Improvement Project

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Psychiatric inpatient units often maintain a degree of lighting at night to facilitate the observation of patients, but this has the potential to disrupt sleep. Certain wavelengths of light may be less likely to disturb sleep and if such lighting permitted adequate observations, patient wellbeing may be improved.


This study explored the effects of changing night-lights from broad-band white to narrow-band red on the amount of sleep observed, ‘as required’ medication administered and number of falls, in an old age psychiatry inpatient setting. Qualitative data was also gathered with a staff questionnaire. We hypothesised that compared to the use of white lights, red lights would be associated with a greater amount of recorded sleep, lesser use of ‘as required’ medication and no increase in the number of falls (reflecting comparable safety).


Whilst there were no significant differences in quantitative measures recorded, there were more observations of sleep during the red light period than the white light period (14.1 versus 13.9 times per night) (U = 627.5, z = − 0.69, p = 0.49) and fewer ‘as required’ medication administrations during the red light period compared to the white light period (3.3 versus 4.8 times per night) (U = 640.0, z = 0.56, p = 0.57). Qualitatively, the staff of the organic assessment unit reported that patients were sleeping better and less agitated at night.


Larger and more in-depth studies are required to examine the full effectiveness of using safe, sleep-enhancing lighting on wards at night.

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