SDW news brief: Frequent sleep disruptions in the hospital setting

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, June 15, 2012

Noises from hallway conversations, hospital pagers, and electronic monitors can wake sleeping hospital patients dozens of times each night and cause temporary jumps in heart rates, according to research conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Researchers enlisted 12 healthy volunteers to spend three nights in a sleep lab, where recorded hospital sounds were played at various volumes. Though sounds such as toilets flushing, voices, or ice machines woke people up at higher volumes, researchers found that electronic sounds woke the volunteers the most frequently, even when played at a volume comparable to a whisper.

Researchers expressed concern about their findings, since many electronic sounds come from monitor alarms meant to alert hospital workers and cannot be eliminated altogether. Researchers also noted that volunteers' heart rates jumped as much as 10 beats per minute when sleepers woke up, and questioned whether the stress from alarms would be greater in older and sicker patients.

Source: Businessweek

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