Viewpoint: Why hospitals should think twice about disrupting patients' sleep

Hospitals should limit unnecessary sleep disruptions for patients, as poor sleep can hinder the healing process, a physician wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times.

Amitha Kalaichandran, MD, a resident physician based in Ottawa, Ontario, shared her experience caring for a 2-year-old patient with a rare disease who'd been hospitalized for seven weeks. Dr. Kalaichandran recalled a night she had to wake the child up to take her vitals. Once she left, it took the child an hour to fall back asleep.

"I hated to wake her, but recently, when I had offered to wait to examine a child until after a nap, my attending physician had scolded: 'You can't care about that. If you do, you'll never examine them. They have to get used to it — they're in the hospital, after all,'" Dr. Kalaichandran wrote.

These disruptions not only hinder the patient experience, but can have numerous health consequences for patients, according to Dr. Kalaichandran. She pointed to research that shows sleep disruption can worsen patients' perception of pain, slow wound healing processes and increase risk of disease.

"If sleep were regarded as a continuous infusion of a medication that helped a patient heal faster, provided them with emotional stability, and ensured they were in the best mind-set to understand the risks and benefits of that care, we would think twice about disrupting it," she wrote.

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