The kind of light often used in medical settings has been tied to inflammation, brain-cell death and a higher mortality risk in cardiac patients.

A team of researchers interrupted oxygen to the brains of animals to mimic cardiac arrest, then assigned them to sleep settings with dim red light, dim white light or no light at all.

After seven nights, their brain cells revealed that exposure to white light led to a variety of poor outcomes, which will be outlined in the July Experimental Neurology.

Cardiac arrest was more likely lethal; white light exposure correlated to greater cell death in the hippocampus, which is key to memory formation; and cells showed more inflammation.

“Clearly, light at night is required in patients’ rooms acutely after cardiac arrest and other major health events,” said lead author Laura Fonken, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “Our data suggest that … changing the light color from broad-spectrum white to a red hue benefits outcomes in an animal.”

The researchers are now exploring whether white light at night provokes a similar physiological response in people using gaming glasses that filter out longer wavelength light. Wearing the glasses seems to bathe everything in warm, sunset tones.

If the intervention works, researchers believe it would be a quick, inexpensive tool to  help improve recovery.