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Cycled lighting for the premature infant

What is cycled lighting?

Cycled lighting is a process in which the lights in the room are illuminated to a certain level for 12 hours during the day and then dimmed for the next 12 hours.

Why does my premature infant need cycled lighting?

Studies have shown that cycled lighting that is consistent with naturally occurring circadian rhythms (our biological clock) in all babies, even as early as 32 weeks gestation, provide benefits to them long term. Studies comparing premature babies that are exposed to cycled lighting versus premature babies exposed to near darkness go home sooner, establish feedings earlier, and have better language and motor skills scores at 2 years of age and beyond.

Does it hurt my baby to have the lights on during the day?

No negative side effects have been documented with cycled lighting. Just as at home, babies adapt to changes in noise, light, and environment. If your baby recently had an eye exam, we may keep the lights dim for a few hours for comfort.

When do the lights go on in the morning and when do they get turned down?

The lights in the room will be turned on with the first set of cares in the morning or during the nurses' bedside report. They will stay on for about 12 hours, and then gradually turned down for the next 12 hours. During care times and exams, they may be turned up again to allow the caregiver to make appropriate assessments. If your baby was born before 32 weeks gestation, the isolette covers will come off and the cycled lighting process will begin when they reach that milestone.

What if I want to nap in the room during the day?

We strongly encourage you to stay with your baby when you can. A curtain can be pulled if the lighting in the room is too bright for you, or you can negotiate some lower lighting for a short period during the day with your nurse. 


The nurses, nurse manager, neonatologists, and nurse practitioners, can review this information with you.

Reviewed 7/2017

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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