Spinal Cord Injury Community

Optimal Healing Environment – Part 1: Acute Care

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
08/09/17  9:20 AM PST
Healing After a Spinal Cord Injury

Acute Care – Hospital Sight and Sound

In my hospital room, my senses of sight and sound were blinded from the beeping-buzzing-banging of life-support machines, the intercom voices and painful cries, and the cold-florescent light.

Although a hospital is intended to treat and heal people, it is my opinion that a hospital room, unfortunately, is not an optimal healing environment.

Transform the sound

Let’s talk some science: sound is a vibration that propagates as a mechanical wave of pressure and displacement via a transmission medium like water or air. This powerful force is fundamental to life and matter and can harmonically influence shape of being. Meaning: the sounds you are exposed to in your hospital room (anywhere, really, but especially when trying to heal) can have a physiological effect on your brain and body. For instance, when a favorite song is played on the radio, whether it is upbeat, or down-tempo your body experiences a physiological change in feeling. This is important to recognize as it pertains to your healing or amplified suffering.

I was very fortunate to have my mother recognize my hospital room as a noisy, acoustically dissonant space that kept me nervous and stressed. She immediately brought in small tabletop water fountain and music speaker to drown out the unpleasant industrial-type sounds. She transformed my acute-care hospital room from a spastic, chaotic space into a tranquil environment for me to remain calm and peacefully serene — focused on healing. Even while I slept, my mind was influenced by the sounds of nature: waves crashing, wind blowing through trees, audible animal sounds. Sounds that would lull me into a balanced, harmonious state of sub-conscious bliss.

What the power of sound did for me and continues to do is set the tone for my intentions. I purposely select sonic solutions (music) for most everything I do: exercise, rest, work flow and road trips.

Dim the light

 The color of light you are exposed to can play a significant physiological role in how your body allocates energy. Companies are starting to recognize this and now gives options for how we can make their technology work better for  us. For example, Apple has added a tool to the new iPhone: a “Night Shift” function that shifts the color of the screen from the daytime blue light into a warmer, tungsten yellow color at night so it won’t keep the brain thinking it’s day when it is night.

Blue light is the light on the spectrum that mimics a bright morning. Blue wavelengths wake us up, boost our attention, and let us know it’s time to start the day. At night, blue light is less desirable because that’s the time when our bodies should be getting ready to wind down for sleep. Studies have shown that looking at bright blue florescent light during the evening hours can confuse the body’s biological clock and disrupt our natural circadian rhythm (the 24-hour light and dark schedule everyone runs on) by suppressing melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep. All light disrupts the circadian rhythm, but blue light has been proven to be the most disruptive.

My hospital room was illuminated by large blue-white, florescent lights that seemed to x-ray my mind and body. I always felt cold and exposed under such harsh lighting. It was difficult to rest peacefully without the lights turned completely off. Again, my mother’s sensitivity recognized the ambiance and balanced the lighting with drapery and a soft, subtle salt-rock bulb in the corner of the room. My acute-care room was without windows so, the synthetic light schedule was kept consistent with the day/night cycle outside.

Between light and sound my hospital room became a powerful zen-zone of rest and restoration. My body and mind became harmonious and it was within that space that I began to rise.

– Aaron

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