Friday, July 13, 2012

Hospitals Finally Realize Sick People Need Sleep

Do you know the most common complaint among people who have had a hospital stay?  The noise in the hospital and the constant waking by nurses for tests make it hard to sleep.  Sadly, the sickest patients in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) are subjected to the loudest sounds from equipment and staff.

Most experts and people would agree that regular solid sleep is necessary for good health and prevents health issues of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, weak immunity and more.  Yet, little research has been done on the effects of disrupting sleep for short periods of time and how it affects a hospital patient's recovery.  As a Mom and Ayurvedic health practitioner, I can tell that this would be very detrimental to a person's health and recovery - but I digress.

A study  done by some Boston area hospitals found that sleep was disturbed by loud bursts of sounds and noises in a hospital.  The experiment was done on healthy people.  The study participants reported less awakenings than were actually noted by the researchers.  Moreover, with every noise induced wake up, the participant's heart rates temporarily jumped as much as ten beats per minute.  Clearly, there are two problems.  One, if hospital patients are already complaining about lack of sleep, they are probably underestimating how much their sleep was disturbed.  Two, if healthy study participants had a pronounced change of heart rate from noise induced sleep interruptions, the stress of constant sleep interruptions must be worse to the heart rates of ICU patients or even regular hospital patients. 

Some hospitals are starting to create structural and procedural solutions to the noise.  However, if you or anyone you care about needs to stay in a hospital, you should act as an advocate to protect their sleep.  This may mean shutting a door or requesting nurses to turn off certain alarms on equipment.  The health of the patient is at stake and all your efforts are worthwhile.

If patients and healthy people need sleep, what about the sleep of nurses, interns and doctors that care for the patients?  Hospitals shouldn't just look to reduce noise to help patients sleep more.  They should take it one step further and have a well rested staff.

Stay healthy & well,

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