ASID: The science of neurogenesis and how it relates to today's patient room design
Ever since the millennial transition, the world of the healthcare A&D professional has expanded thanks in part to the scientific discoveries of neurogenesis and the growing understanding as to the importance of environmental daytime light and the need for darkness at night, especially as it relates to sleep. The process of neurogenesis or the brain’s ability to regenerate and grow new neurons has opened the interconnected design/science door between our two professions because it establishes the long-sought–after link between the brain and the built environment. And the process of neurogenesis is leading the way because this growth-promoting function can only occur in an “enriched environment” such as rooms that provide bright, light-filled days and darkened conditions at night, contrasting visual stimuli, expansive nature views with access to natural sights and sounds, and an interior environment that supports the body and brain in the process of sleep. But as in life, nothing is easy and especially for the healthcare design professional, because here lies the problem: How do you provide patients and long-term care residents the daytime light-filled rooms AND the night time darkened environments (both conditions needed to promote sleep), while allowing nighttime medical intrusions such as numerous bursts of corridor light trespassing into a sleeping patient’s darkened room and the barbaric burst of white night lighting as duty staff go about their routine middle-of-the-night vital checks and blood drawls?
A few weeks ago another blogger had presented her thoughts on a unique medical training concept called "narrative medicine" which describes how new physicians were encouraged to explore outside of their fields in order to fully understand their patients needs and conditions. So to that I pose the challenge for the A&D professional to uncover the existing solution that is hidden within emerging medical and scientific research. For unless we go outside of the design world and approach patient room design from the perspective of what the body and brain need for achieving optimal sleep and healing, we will not be designing spaces with the patient’s best interest in mind, especially when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.