1. Donnelly, Gloria F. PhD, RN, FAAN
  2. Editor-in-Chief

Article Content

This issue of Holistic Nursing Practice includes an interview with Dr Donald McEachron, an expert on the relationship between biological rhythms, health, and human functioning. This area of research is crucial to designing environments and implementing health care practices in the home and health care settings to respect and enhance human rhythmicity and contribute to healing and overall well-being. In our conversations, I learned that the color of light is just as important as the presence or absence of light at certain times of the day. This struck a chord with me because my mother-in-law, now 100 years old and experiencing some dementia and day night reversal, has always slept with the light on in her room. "What color is the bulb?" asked Dr McEachron. "Oh, it's a regular 60 watt white bulb," I replied. The response was, "You might want to try a red bulb at night since red light does not interfere with melatonin production." The literature is confirming of this view.

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Melatonin is a hormone that the body produces at night to facilitate sleep. In fact, the cells in the eye that process light, called the ipRGC cells, are completely insensitive to red light like the red of a sunrise or sunset. This insensitivity to red light does not interrupt melatonin production and ultimately promotes sleep. I decided to conduct my own experiment with an N of one, my 100-year-old mother-in-law. I purchased a red, 60-watt, LED light bulb and put it in my mother-in-law's room. At 10 PM, her usual time to retire, only the red light was left on. She acknowledged that she could still see and was comfortable with the light level. She did not seem to notice the color difference in the light. A warm red glow that felt unusually comforting to me emanated from her room.


In the 2 weeks since installing the red light, my mother-in-law had only 1 sleepless night, which we could attribute to pain. We have discontinued the use of all sleep medication since the installation of the red light and have used only pain medication sporadically. It was such a simple solution for what had become a difficult and draining problem for the entire family.


There is so much knowledge about human functioning that is not yet a part of the practice mainstream and one of them is that humans need as much dark as light. Melatonin is crucial to specific human functions such as sleep, reproductive cycles and weight and energy regulation. Yet health care work environments, particularly noise and light levels, can be hazardous to health and healing for both patients and staff.


It is my hope that the interview with Dr McEachron will prompt HNP readers to explore those simple solutions and interventions that respect the design and functioning of the human body and that promote health and healing in environments of care.


-Gloria F. Donnelly, PhD, RN, FAAN