elderly people walking

How circadian lighting can reduce falls in seniors by 43%

According to a study by Harvard University, researchers were able to reduce the fall rate of elderly residents living in a nursing home by as much as 43% by changing the lighting throughout the building. Instead of attempting to make the environment brighter, the lighting was designed to mimic a natural circadian rhythm throughout the day, keeping the overall lighting brightness the same as it would be in a typical environment.

How lighting could have this effect on residents’ falls?

Lighting goes further than allowing residents’ vision, helping to improve their alertness during the day to avoid falls. But this answer is not obvious, it has a basis in our biological response based on the light that enters our eyes.

Our eyes have sensor cells (neurons) that receive light and transform it into signals to our brains. Some of these signals are the ones that allow vision, but there are also other non-visual signals, such as the circadian system response. This means that our brain regulates our body’s response in a 24-hour cycle, due to the dynamic natural light we receive through our eyes from the sun. 

Our body’s response is influenced by a 24-hour hormone cycle based on sunlight. It starts to release melatonin during the evening when the sunlight gets warmer and dimmer in the sunset to prepare us for rest at night. On the contrary, it suppresses melatonin (and releases cortisol) during the morning, when there is a brighter and cooler white light at noon, to keep our senses sharpened for daily activity. 

Residents in nursing homes are seniors, some of whom have limited mobility. They spend most of their time indoors, under artificial static light. However, their body needs to receive natural dynamic light to balance their circadian rhythms. Proper lighting, like healthy natural light, helps the brain keep an appropriate hormone regulation to get the attention they need to avoid falls during the day.

The study compared the rate of falls in two different nursing homes, with similar rates before the lighting upgrade. One of them remained with its original static lighting, while the other had an improved lighting system with color temperature variation, to have a cooler color temperature in the morning and a warmer color temperature in the evening. 

The information gathered in this study shows that upgrading the lighting systems with a blue-enriched (cool) white light during the daytime and avoiding this kind of light overnight, could be an effective action to prevent falls in elderly care facilities. 

Circadian lighting can play a key role in nursing homes, by simulating the dynamic changes of natural light in terms of color temperature (warm to cool light) and brightness with artificial LED light. KUMUX Lighting for nursing homes automates this circadian lighting cycle in any kind of smart lighting system to promote the benefits of healthy natural light and avoid falls, which are one of the most common complications in seniors’ health.

Now that we know the benefits of the right light, further than vision, when replacing old fluorescent or conventional lamps with energy-efficient LED lights, let’s go one step further and improve seniors’ life quality with circadian lighting.