September 2012, Volume 42 Number 9 , p 23 - 25
Which hospital noises are most likely to disrupt a patient's sleep? In a small study conducted over three nights, researchers played 14 sounds in the rooms where 12 healthy volunteers slept. The sounds included I.V. pump alarms; people talking; a laundry cart rolling down the hall; sounds from telephones, ice machines, and flushing toilets; automobile traffic; and noises from a helicopter and an airplane flying overhead.Study volunteers slept for one night without sounds to create a baseline, followed by two intervention nights in which individual sounds were played at calibrated, increasing decibel levels during specific sleep stages. Researchers documented encephalographic arousals during rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep.They found that electronic sounds were more disturbing than other sounds, including voices, and that arousal to sound presented in REM sleep caused "a greater and more sustained elevation of instantaneous heart rate." They concluded that sounds heard during sleep "influence both cortical brain activity and cardiovascular function," and say their results provide evidence that can help facilities improve acoustic environments in patient-care areas.Source: Buxton OM, Ellenbogen JM, Wang W, et al. Sleep disruption due to hospital noises: a prospective evaluation. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Jun 11. [Epub ahead of print]In a survey of 1,171 hospital-employed RNs, 18% reported depressive symptoms-nearly twice as many as adults in the general public. Using a 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire, researchers measured individual and workplace characteristics, work productivity, and depression. Factors with a significant relationship to depression included high body mass index, poor job satisfaction, number of health problems, mental well-being, and health-related productivity. The researchers suggest that "advanced practice nurses can assist with educating nurses on recognizing depression and confidential interventions."Source: Letvak S, Ruhm CJ, McCoy T.