Tips for Improving Sleep During a Hospital Stay

Getting a restful night’s sleep during a hospital admission can help recharge energy levels, and is one of the most important components of recovery following illness or injury.

That said, hospitals are busy environments that have many lights and noises that can keep you up at night. Moreover, symptoms and medical concerns one may be experiencing can also make it hard to fall asleep.

This article will discuss the factors that impede a good night’s rest and ways to improve your sleep during a hospital stay.

Factors That Affect Sleep In the Hospital

The following things can contribute to a poor night’s sleep when admitted into a hospital:

  • Noise pollution:
    • Overhead hospital wide public address and paging systems are constantly announcing emergency codes to draw the staff’s attention to emerging issues
    • Noise from other roommates and patients when they are:
      • experiencing pain
      • undergoing bedside procedures and care
      • Have difficulty regulating themselves or their volume related to a cognitive impairment or dementia
    • Medical devices and diagnostic equipment that beep or hum on a regular basis
    • Hospital staff discussing medical care and logistics within earshot distance
  • Lighting pollution:
    • Hallway lighting are always on to ensure staff and patient safety
    • Medical equipment usually have their displays illuminated or power buttons lit to highlight that they are active and functioning
    • Neighbors in shared hospital rooms may be using their lights to read or engage in other activities
    • Natural and artificial lighting can come into the room from outside when room curtains or shades are not fully drawn closed
Hospital rooms are noisy and well lit environments, which may make it hard for some people to fall asleep.
  • Patient monitoring – frequent check ups throughout the day and night by the nursing staff can be a source of sleep disruption
  • Treatment and medication side effects – some medication may make you alert at night or cause you to feel drowsy at abnormal times during the day
  • Ongoing health conditions and symptoms:
    • Poorly controlled pain can disturb sleep patterns
    • Anxiety can produce feelings of being overwhelmed and can keep the mind active
    • Overwhelming nausea can make it difficult to fall asleep
    • Urgency to void the bowels and bladder can make it troublesome to get rest

Strategies to Improve Sleep During a Hospital Stay

The following strategies can be used to improve sleep quality within the hospital:

  1. Shut the door to the hallway – reduce light and sound from entering your room at night
  2. Sleep medication – ask the doctor to prescribe a sleeping aid that can help you fall asleep and stay asleep
  3. Minimize interruptions – ask the nursing staff to delay early morning blood collection when possible to minimize disruptions to one’s sleep pattern
  4. Eye mask – cover your eyes to reduce light from entering and keeping you awake
  5. Ear plugs – block your ears to reduce the volume of any surrounding noise
  6. Limit napping – avoiding naps during the day to achieve a more restful sleep at night
  7. Limit food and drinks near bedtime – minimizing the consumption of food and liquids in the evening to reduce the urge to use the bathroom late at night
  8. Relax before bed – prepare the body for sleep by avoiding engaging or stimulating activities for one hour before bedtime:
    1. Reduce lighting – stop using any electronic devices and lower the lights
    2. Reduce sounds – turn off any music and stop phone conversations
    3. Avoid any physical activities – do not stimulate the body with strenuous activity immediate before sleep
  9. Exercise throughout the day – walking and engaging in rehab exercises during the day can help burn off excess energy levels and make falling asleep easier

Get comfortable – pack a hospital patient bag with a change of comfy pajamas and clothes