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Please, Let Sleeping Patients Lie

A recent Kaiser Health News article highlights one of my personal pet peeves about hospital care: Unnecessarily interrupted sleep during hospitalization. It is bad for the patient and certainly impacts their satisfaction with your care.

You know how you feel when you haven't slept well, right? Add illness to that and for some, aging changes and you end up with a cranky patient and often family to boot.  Sleep is important for all when ill, no matter what age the patient.

Sleep helps you heal.  It allows your body to work on fixing the problem while the mind switches to different activity levels that allow for physiologic healing to occur.

Sick kids need it so they have the energy to cope with their illness during the day and all those grown ups doing stuff to them.

The elderly need sleep because it will take them longer to recover.  Lack of sleep also puts them at higher risk for delirium, confusion, and wandering. (Oh, does that explain a few things?!)

So if you are working night shift, ask yourself a few important questions:

Can I give my patient all the meds they need before they go to sleep or get them scheduled that way?

Do I REALLY need to get that set of vital signs on the medically stable patient in the middle of the night?

Can I reposition the BP cuff on the sleeping child who keeps rolling over on to it and showing a BP drop that sets off alarms so both parent and child can sleep better?

Start critically thinking about how you can promote sleep with your patients.  You just might find it might make for a better night shift for you.

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