Healthcare News & Insights

How improving patients’ sleep in the hospital is key to recovery

With the hustle and bustle happening at all hours in a hospital, patients may have trouble getting adequate sleep, which could have a huge impact on their recovery.

If you think patients’ sleep deprivation isn’t a huge concern for your hospital, think again.

Sleep-deprived patients are less likely to be fully active participants in their care. They aren’t able to fully process instructions given to them by hospital staff, and once they’re discharged, it’s much harder for them to keep their medications straight or follow their doctor’s orders.

And this could land them right back in the hospital, boosting readmissions rates.

According to a press release from Johns Hopkins Hospital, patients who don’t get enough sleep during their hospital stay are more likely to experience delirium. Symptoms include both short-term and long-term confusion, as well as difficulties remembering things.

That’s not exactly the best mental state to send a patient home in. It’s much harder for an overtired patient battling memory problems to monitor his or her recovery effectively.

Patients staying in the intensive care unit are particularly vulnerable to this condition. In fact, Dr. Dale Needham, a professor at Johns Hopkins, said that up to 80% of patients in the ICU may experience delirium at some point during their hospital stay.

Creating an environment to promote sleep

To combat this problem, researchers at Johns Hopkins, including Dr. Biren Kamdar and Dr. Needham, developed a project to ensure ICU patients at the hospital got a good night’s sleep in hopes of reducing delirium rates.

The results showed a significant effect on the incidence of delirium in patients, according to an article in Critical Care Medicine.

In the first stages, a checklist was created to minimize distractions that could affect patients’ sleep. Checklist items included:

  • Making sure all televisions were turned off in the evenings, as well as room and hallway lights
  • Consolidating the number of overnight visits by staff members to distribute medication and take blood
  • Reducing overhead pages, and
  • Minimizing unnecessary equipment alarms

The second stage involved making patients’ surroundings more relaxing. They were offered eye masks and ear plugs to block out any light and noise that couldn’t be reduced otherwise. Additionally, patients were given the option of listening to tranquil music.

Medications were the focus of the last phase of the project. Staff members were discouraged from giving patients any sleep medications that were found to contribute to delirium, including benzodiazepines.

Promising results

This approach resulted in a marked decrease in reports of behaviors attributed to delirium when compared to other patients who didn’t receive these accommodations. Patients also reported some improvement in their sleep, as well.

It all goes to show how important it is to consider all aspects of a patient’s experience in the hospital when looking to improve the quality of patient care your hospital provides.

Getting a decent amount of sleep is almost as important to a patient’s treatment as any medication or therapy regimen. Having patients be as alert as possible during their hospital stay helps them more fully participate in their treatment, and it makes them better able to understand and follow their care plans once released.

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