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Working to improve sleep for patients

Sleep management research

Work is underway at Derriford Hospital to make sure that patients have a better chance of getting a good night’s sleep.

The work has now been featured in the national Nursing Management publication.

Staff at our hospital wanted to identify the factors that could improve the amount of quality sleep for patients so they carried out audits on 27 wards. They particularly focussed on light and noise.

Carol Hewart, Senior Sister Acute Care Team, and Loveday Fethney, Sister and Clinical Educator, supported the work.

Carol explained: “Research suggests there is an association between hospital admission and sleep deprivation, and that when patients do manage to sleep it is often interrupted and therefore poor quality. On top of this, patient feedback questionnaires show that lack of sleep, due to hospital noise, is detrimental to recovery.”

Once the researchers had collected their findings they shared the results with ward staff encouraged them to modify their practice to try to reduce noise levels.
Recommendations included:

Turn phone and call bell volumes down – for example, to half the day-time level.
Ensure doors are closed before using noisy equipment, such as the dishwasher or macerator.

Think twice before switching on bay lights for clinical care – for example, use bed light.
Turn off bedside TV.

Consider timing of observations to maximise sleep time.

Consider eye masks and ear plugs for patients.

Purchase noise monitoring equipment to increase staff awareness of the level of noise generated.

A follow up audit revealed that nurses are now helping to reduce noise and light levels. For example, staff on one care of the elderly ward have made an extra effort to turn the lights off even earlier than the recommended time as they have noticed a great difference in the sleep patterns of their confused patients. And individual nurses are adopting different strategies for specific patients. A further audit is planned within six months.

Sue Johnson, Head of Nursing, said: “We want to thank all the ward staff for the changes they have put in place and the positive impact this has had for our patients.”


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