Advocating for a good night’s sleep

Sleep has been underrated. There is no doubt that miracles occur daily in hospitals. But in the race to vanquish disease, simple things like sleep can get short shrift.

Choosing Wisely, a white paper by the American Academy of Nursing, has listed several common hospital practices that unintentionally get in the way of a solid recovery. We talked in the February 2016 issue about the problem of spending too much time in bed. Another problem is interrupted sleep.

Promote uninterrupted sleep

Sleep is one of the body’s most healing activities. It has a cyclic pattern that should be respected. When your relative is hospitalized, do what you can to advocate for:

  • Medicines being given during waking hours. (Work with the nurses to arrive at a schedule that does not interrupt sleep.)
  • Lights out, monitors silent, and doors to your relative’s room closed at night.
  • No middle-of-the-night blood draws. Ask that draws occur when your loved one is awake in the morning.
  • Vitals checked just before bed and then in the morning. Have blood pressure, pulse, temperature, pain, and respirations been fairly steady? If so, ask if there is really a need to interrupt sleep at 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.
  • Effective and long-lasting pain management applied in the evening. This way, pain will not cause your loved one to wake up in the night.

Of course there are reasons a patient may need midnight attention. Maybe the medical situation is still unstable—the illness not yet under control. Perhaps a test is needed to help develop a plan of care. Or to make immediate treatment decisions. But if things are generally stable, it’s perfectly appropriate to ask, “What are the real risks of no interruptions between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.? Can it wait?” Healing may be a higher priority.