Healthcare News & Insights

3 keys to improving patients’ sleep during hospital stays

The importance of a good night’s sleep for hospital patients can’t be stressed enough. It’s one of the most significant factors affecting their recovery. But due to practices such as late-night rounding, it’s difficult for patients to rest. 

An article from Kaiser Health News describes the efforts hospitals are making to improve patients’ sleep.

Many aspects of a hospital stay can contribute to a patient having difficulty sleeping. Besides late-night rounds and vital-sign checks, sleep can also be disturbed by noisy machines in the hospital room, bright fluorescent lights and the general discomfort sick patients experience.

Not only does a lack of sleep negatively affect recovery (and can even make certain patients more susceptible to developing delirium), it can hurt hospitals’ patient satisfaction scores. With everyone from the feds to online review sites using these scores to evaluate and rank facilities, improving patients’ rest is more important now than ever.

What hospitals have done

Several different strategies have helped patients sleep better. Some hospitals, including Massachusetts General Hospital, have instituted mandatory “quiet hours,” where noise and lighting levels are limited during the evening and early morning to improve patients’ rest.

The VA’s New Jersey Health Care System takes this even further. Along with quiet hours, facilities offer patients relaxing sleep aids such as a cup of herbal tea or aromatherapy with lavender oil.

Because every hospital can’t invest in therapeutic oils and diffusers, here are three suggestions you can try in your facility now:

  1. Change dosage intervals for medications. At Mount Sinai, hospitals are rethinking the way they give patients medications. In the past, patients received antibiotics every four hours, meaning they were woken up several times during the night. To cut down on these disturbances, the hospital started giving patients antibiotics that could be taken every six hours instead. Other drugs that patients once received every six hours were administered four times a day – mostly during hours patients were usually awake.
  2. Create a new system for checking in on patients. Patients who have significant health problems may need round-the-clock intervention from doctors and nurses. But not every patient falls into this category. In fact, according to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), close to half of all patients who were woken up during the night for vital-sign checks didn’t need to be. That means hospitals should limit these checks – and avoid making multiple trips to handle them. Have one doctor or nurse administer medication, draw blood and perform vital-sign checks, rather than allowing multiple staff members to disturb the person each night.
  3. Limit all nonessential activity at night. The hospital at the Yale School of Medicine is doing several things to limit activity in and around patient rooms during the evening. Nurses are given a checklist of tasks that must be completed before 11 p.m. Even the cleaning schedule has been tweaked by changing the times that staff wash the floors so the noise doesn’t disturb patients as they’re sleeping.

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