NICU Standard 26: Daylighting

At least one source of natural daylight shall be visible from all infant care areas, either from the infant care station itself or from an adjacent area. Where a window or skylight is provided, the following requirements shall be met:

Exterior windows in infant areas or infant rooms shall be glazed with a maximum U value of 0.50.

Exterior windows in infant areas or infant rooms shall be situated at least two feet (0.6 meters) from the infant bed. All daylighting sources shall be equipped with shading devices.

Interpretation: Windows and daylight provide important psychological benefits to staff and families in the NICU and therefore should be provided in as many spaces that adults will occupy as possible. Exposure to daylight has a substantial impact on mood and circadian health. Lack of exposure to daylight has been associated with a disruption in circadian rhythms and decreased sleep quality. While there is less data on daylight for postpartum recovery, current evidence would indicate that the benefits would be similar for stressed or postpartum families. Indoor spaces with daylight exposure have also been shown to have fewer bacteria as compared with spaces without any daylight exposure. The presence of windows and daylight is to support families and staff rather than infants, since exterior windows have not been shown to enhance infant development.

Where exterior windows are provided, they should be carefully placed to avoid direct sunlight from striking the infant, IV fluids, or monitor screens, to allow easy cleaning, and to avoid glare and heat loss. Visible light transmittance (VLT) of windows should be greater than 40%. Shading devices should be easily controlled to allow flexibility at various times of day, and should either be contained within the window or easily cleanable.

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