Taking steps to ensure the hospital's sickest patients get a good night's rest could help eliminate a common roadblock to their recovery, according to a new study.
New research in the journal Critical Care Medicine shows that taking common-sense measures to improve sleep -- like turning off lights, reducing noise and minimizing interruptions by hospital staff -- was linked with less delirium among hospital intensive care unit (ICU) patients. Delirium is a well-known risk of lack of sleep marked by confusion, and can hamper recovery in patients. Researchers said it's a sign of brain health.
"With our interventions, we were able to improve a patient's odds of being free of delirium in the ICU by 54 percent, even after taking into account the diagnosis, need for mechanical ventilation, age and other factors," study researcher Dr. Biren Kamdar, M.D., a pulmonary and critical care fellow at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said in a statement. "In addition, many patients said that the ICU was quiet and comfortable enough for them to get a good night's sleep."
At the start of the study, researchers analyzed the sleep and delirium of 122 patients who were staying in an ICU over eight weeks. Then, they implemented three stages of sleep-promoting interventions, for which 178 patients were analyzed.
The three stages of interventions were carried out over a period of 13 weeks. The first stage of interventions included having hospital staff follow a 10-item checklist, which included things like making sure the TVs and lights were turned off, consolidating the number of times hospital staff needed to interrupt the patient's sleep (like if they had to draw blood or administer a medication), and decreasing the number of pages or alarms that went off.
The second stage of interventions included offering sleep-promoting tools to the patients, such as eye masks, soothing music and ear plugs. The third stage included guidelines being administered to hospital staff discouraging the administration of delirium-inducing sleep drugs.
Compared with the baseline group, scientists found that the patients who underwent the sleep-promoting measures experienced less delirium. They also had better sleep quality, though not at a statistically significant level, researchers said.
It's no secret that hospitals -- particularly ICUs -- are loud. A recent study from Harvard examined what exactly the sounds are that awaken patients from slumber, showing that electronic sounds (even when they are not that loud) are particularly arousing.