Reducing Hospital Sleep Disruptions

Nurse sitting on a hospital bed next to an older woman helping hIf you’ve ever spent the night in a hospital, you know it can be anything but restful. Frequent nursing checks, nighttime medication dosing and noise can disturb patients throughout the night.

Vineet Arora, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago in Illinois, conducted a study to see if fewer interruptions were possible without compromising care. The results were published in the January issue of the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

“We’ve known (inpatient sleep deprivation) is a problem since Florence Nightingale in the 1800s, so why hasn’t it been fixed?” she said in a Jan. 18 WebMD article. “It’s a very patient-centered problem that also has health implications.” 

Previously, Arora’s research found that even short amounts of sleep loss in hospital patients resulted in higher blood pressure and higher blood sugar levels.

The study involved two 18-room general medicine units in a Chicago hospital. More than 1,000 patients were admitted to either a standard unit or the SIESTA unit, the article said. Nurses in the SIESTA (Sleep for Inpatients: Empowering Staff to Act) unit were coached on improving patient sleep and encouraged to skip unnecessary nighttime vital signs checks or medication doses.

As a result, the percentage of nurses who skipped unnecessary vital signs checks rose from 4% to 34%, and sleep-friendly timing of medications leapt from 15% to 42%.

“Based on clinical judgment and conversation with the patient, nighttime disruptions can be decreased,” said Seun Ross, director of nursing practice and work environment for the American Nurses Association. She was not involved with the study. “This initiative is practical for patients that qualify — meaning they are clinically stable and not in critical condition. Sleep is healing, which is important for every human, but in an inpatient setting, communication is paramount.”