The practice of nursery lighting has changed over the past several decades. In the 1970s, the most prevalent strategy was to continually dim the lights in the entire patient care area or cover the infants’ incubators, on the theory that dim lighting was appropriate for premature infants because it was similar to the environment in utero. Research has shown that constant dimness deprives infants of the light stimulation needed to reset their biological clock every 24 hours. Lack of light impedes growth because less cortisol is produced. Exposure of premature infants to low-intensity cycled lighting induces distinct patterns of rest/activity that are apparent within 1 week after discharge. Infants exposed to early cycled light (at birth and 32 weeks post-menstrual age [PMA]) gain weight faster than infants who do not receive cycled lighting until 36 weeks PMA.

Neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have...

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