Research Brief


LED Lighting in Medical Facilities


The implications of light on human health are relatively well studied. From specific ailments like Alzheimer’s to more general studies on lighting and depression, studies reflect the importance of the right kind of indoor lighting as it relates to human health.

In general, most findings seem to indicate that the more closely light indoors mimics the patterns of natural light (outdoors) the better results for health characteristics like, better sleep, less depression, and even improvements in symptoms of dementia.

It takes a very short stretch of the imagination to imagine that light might have an affect on our health, as sunlight is so crucial to the wellbeing of all things on the planet.  Applying that logic, researchers are now looking at populations that spend much of their time indoors, like seniors in Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs).

Studies on the Health Benefits of LED Lighting in Assisted Living Facilities:

The positive effects of LED lighting on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) have been well demonstrated by researchers at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic.

The research is recent and is still in progress, but primary indications are that LED lighting can improve the health of seniors with Alzheimer’s and related dementia.


Key findings include:

  • LEDs can help ADRD patients regulate circadian functions for better sleep at night, and more wakefulness during the day
  • Controlled LED lighting environments can reduce behaviors like nocturnal wandering, agitation, and abusive outbursts
  • LEDs blue spectrum light has been proven effective at suppressing melatonin, which improves sleep quality and delays median body temperature peak
  • Dimming control capability of LEDs in patient rooms adds to a patient’s feeling of comfort
  • In a recent study, a 24-hour controlled LED lighting scheme increased night time sleep in ADRD patients by 24%

While natural daylight from windows is one way to take advantage of the power of light, optimizing indoor lighting in ALF’s also appears to improve patient outcomes. Researchers also recommend a highly controllable ‘24-hour lighting scheme’ which uses energy-efficient LEDs  and/or can be managed in specific rooms.


Sources Cited:  
Spectral Sensitivity of the Circadian System
Field Measurements of Light Exposures and Circadian Disruption in Two Populations of Older Adults
~ Mariana G. Figueiro, PhD – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – Lighting Research Center


Additional Resources for Alzheimer’s and Lighting Research:

Lighting Research Center information and video
Light Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia: Past, Present, and Future brief from National Institute for Health
24-hour Lighting Scheme for Older Adults brief from the American Institute of Architects
Senior Living Environments: Evidence-Based Lighting Design Strategies – Health Environments Research and Design
Bluish Light May Help Alzheimer’s Patients Find Bearings – NPR
Lighting Trends in Healthcare Design – Health Care Design Magazine


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