If you've seen babies sleeping in strollers on the subway or a crowded city street, you might think they're unaffected by noise. But it turns out that little changes in the environment can make a big difference in infants' health. In a ward for sick and premature babies at a British hospital, a redesign of the building had surprising results.
By reducing noise from hospital equipment, and adding more natural light with large windows and skylights, the new design led directly to better-rested, better-fed babies. Researchers used accelerometers, the tiny devices used in cell phones to measure speed and movement, to monitor how the infants reacted to the new environment. They found that the babies slept 22 percent longer, and were 40 percent more likely to go home breastfeeding. The design helped parents and staff, too; nurses spent 20 percent more time in the babies' rooms, perhaps because they were so much more pleasant to be in than the former ward, which was dark, cramped, and noisy.
After the success of the neonatal ward, the architects are now moving on to redesign the hospital's cancer treatment center.
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