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Patients recovering from surgery in rooms with lots of natural light needed less pain medication than patients recovering in dim rooms, according to study findings presented at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Orlando, Fla., in March. This study is believed to be the first to tie sunlight to pain perception.


Researchers randomly placed 89 patients who'd undergone spinal fusion surgery on either the sunny or the dim side of the building. Light meters indicated that darker rooms had 46% less natural light than those on the sunnier side. Drug costs for pain medications were 21% less for patients in brighter rooms than for patients in dim rooms.

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Some meeting participants speculated that a sunny environment improves a patient's mood, which may help explain the drop in pain medication use. Another theory is that caregivers may treat patients differently depending on how a room is lit.