Bright environmental light improves the sleepiness of nightshift ICU nurses

John E. Griepentrog, Hanna E. Labiner, Scott R. Gunn, Matthew R. Rosengart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Background: Shift work can disturb circadian homeostasis and result in fatigue, excessive sleepiness, and reduced quality of life. Light therapy has been shown to impart positive effects in night shift workers. We sought to determine whether or not prolonged exposure to bright light during a night shift reduces sleepiness and enhances psychomotor performance among ICU nurses. Methods: This is a single-center randomized, crossover clinical trial at a surgical trauma ICU. ICU nurses working a night shift were exposed to a 10-h period of high illuminance (1500-2000 lx) white light compared to standard ambient fluorescent lighting of the hospital. They then completed the Stanford Sleepiness Scale and the Psychomotor Vigilance Test. The primary and secondary endpoints were analyzed using the paired t test. A p value <0.05 was considered significant. Results: A total of 43 matched pairs completed both lighting exposures and were analyzed. When exposed to high illuminance lighting subjects experienced reduced sleepiness scores on the Stanford Sleepiness Scale than when exposed to standard hospital lighting: mean (sem) 2.6 (0.2) vs. 3.0 (0.2), p = 0.03. However, they committed more psychomotor errors: 2.3 (0.2) vs. 1.7 (0.2), p = 0.03. Conclusions: A bright lighting environment for ICU nurses working the night shift reduces sleepiness but increases the number of psychomotor errors. Trial registration:, NCT03331822. Retrospectively registered on 6 November 2017.

Original languageEnglish
Article number295
JournalCritical Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 13 2018


  • Circadian
  • Light
  • Night shift
  • Nurse
  • Shift work sleep disorder


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