Lighting as an aid for recovery in hospitalized psychiatric patients: a randomized controlled effectiveness trial

Purpose: Artificial indoor lighting can disturb sleep and increase depressive symptoms; both common complaints in psychiatric inpatients. In this trial we aimed to improve sleep in psychiatric inpatients using a circadian lighting environment.

Patients and methods: Investigator-blinded parallel-group randomised controlled effectiveness trial in an inpatient psychiatric ward with adjustable lighting. Admitted patients received a pre-set circadian lighting environment (intervention group) or lighting as usual (control group). The primary outcome was the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and secondary outcomes included the Major Depression Inventory and WHO-5 Well-Being Index.

Results: We assessed 74 patients and included 54 (27 treated and 27 controls). Treated patients reported a non-significant change in mean sleep quality by −1.02 points on the PSQI (95% CI: −3.17; 1.12) and controls by −0.59 points (95% CI: −2.52; 1.33), difference −0.43 (95% CI: −3.05; 2.2, p-value .74). Similarly, treated patients reported a non-significant change in depressive symptoms and well-being compared to controls. Qualitative data indicated no serious side-effects and no patients in the intervention group were submitted to involuntary measures. Collection of data was non-complete and missing data from self-reported questionnaires amounted to 52.5%.

Conclusions: The intervention showed no effect on sleep quality, mood or well-being. The circadian lighting environment was safe in our small and diverse patient sample. The trial integrated well with routine clinical care and our sample reflected the heterogeneity of the target population.