Cycles of Light

Published in DukeMed, Spring/Summer 2006

(Sidebar to “Saving the Smallest“)

Most ICNs are kept in near-darkness to simulate the womb, but neonatal clinical nurse specialist Debra Brandon may have found a better alternative.
In an NIH-funded study, she provided premature infants with periods of light (mimicking daytime), filtered through a netting similar to car sunshades, and periods of near-darkness (nighttime), in which their incubators were blanketed with a coverlet.

Brandon found that babies who received the day/night cycled light earlier in their post-gestation period gained weight faster than those who received it later.

“Cycled light mimics the circadian rhythm cues that are established for full-term babies in the womb,” says Brandon, an assistant professor of nursing and pediatrics. “Circadian rhythms are important to everyone’s health and well-being, and establishing a good circadian pattern seems to benefit preterm babies in terms of sleep, immunological function, and digestive system function.”

Brandon’s follow-up research will chart the long-term developmental effects of cycled light.

Article Copyright 2006 DukeMed magazine