The Research Project, Week Sixteen, Healing and Sleeping in Kansas

When I visit people who are hospitalized I usually ask them how they’ve been sleeping. I point out that, even with the best medical care, if they don’t sleep well they simply won’t get better.

Sarah Hayden, a student at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas would probably agree. She has been doing research on sleep deprivation among hospital patients, in particular patients in Intensive Care Units.

In the research abstract, she notes that:

“Sleep deprivation in the intensive care unit setting is a common concern for critically ill patients. Healthcare professionals, however, tend to become desensitized to the critical care environment and merely see sleep deprivation as secondary to needing intensive care. Although there is a large body of research on the negative physical and psychological effects of sleep disturbances, few clinical changes have been implemented. This educational development literature review was performed to promote evidence-based practice in regards to sleep-promoting nursing interventions. The findings from my research will be presented to critical care nursing staff at a local hospital to enhance patient care quality in clinical practice.”

In other words, nurses are so focused on doing their jobs, in providing the best medical care, that the patients’ need for sleep is overlooked. Hayden hopes to change that by actually going and talking to the nursing staff at her local hospital about “sleep-promoting nursing interventions.”

I must say I’ve witnessed this so many times in my hospital visits.. I see exhausted patients just trying to rest and one or more nurses or other care providers are in the room running tests or taking the patient’s vital signs, monitoring machines are beeping and making other noises, it’s an unfamiliar environment for the patient, the patient’s need for sleep is clearly of secondary importance. So if a patient I am trying to visit is sleeping I try to avoid waking them up.

Maybe you have your own horror stories about sleep deprivation while recuperating in a hospital. One person I talked to was in the hospital recovering from surgery. She had finally gotten to sleep when a nurse came in to weigh her. The nurse wheeled the big, heavy scale into the room and got the patient out of bed onto the scale. And this was at about 3:00 o’clock in the morning!

On one hand I can see the side of the nurses. They have been given orders to do their job, often by a doctor who stopped by briefly to check on the patient, issued a long list of procedures that have to be done to provide the best care to the patient and then was on his or her way to the next patient. But I would think that with some careful research like that being done by Hayden there could be a way to prioritize the patients’ need for rest while at the same time give the best medical monitoring and care.

Washburn University has a rich history dating back 150 years. It was founded in 1865 by members of the Congregational Church on the principle that all people – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or family income – have the right to earn an education. They have one of the best mascots in the country, the Ichabod, which comes from the name of the university’s founder, Ichabod Washburn.

Hayden’s research was featured in the Washburn University Apeiron, an event that allows students to showcase their research, scholarship, creative activities, and community engagement activities in a setting similar to a professional meeting.

2 thoughts on “The Research Project, Week Sixteen, Healing and Sleeping in Kansas

  1. Interesting topic. My dad was in ICU for several weeks before he passed away. The one thing hardest to see was his inability to rest. He couldn’t rest because he was uncomfortable and constantly interrupted by the well meaning nurses. This research is much needed.

  2. I agree 100 percent that adequate and good sleep is difficult to secure in a hospital setting, but is so necessary to recovery. Same goes in everyday life. We need our sleep. Enough of it and of good quality. The older I grow, the less “good” sleep I get, and especially recently.

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