Previous studies have demonstrated that a light-dark cycle has promoted better sleep development and weight gain in preterm infants than constant light or constant darkness. However, it was unknown whether brief light exposure at night for medical treatment and nursing care would compromise the benefits brought about by such a light-dark cycle. To examine such possibility, we developed a special red LED light with a wavelength of >675 nm which preterm infants cannot perceive. Preterm infants born at <36 weeks' gestational age were randomly assigned for periodic exposure to either white or red LED light at night in a light-dark cycle after transfer from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to the Growing Care Unit, used for supporting infants as they mature. Activity, nighttime crying and body weight were continuously monitored from enrolment until discharge. No significant difference in rest-activity patterns, nighttime crying, or weight gain was observed between control and experimental groups. The data indicate that nursing care conducted at 3 to 4-hour intervals exposing infants to light for <15 minutes does not prevent the infants from developing circadian rest-activity patterns, or proper body growth as long as the infants are exposed to regular light-dark cycles.
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