Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hospitals Are Too Noisy

A study confirms what many patients in hospitals already know from personal experience: the background noise of hospitals, including the beeping and other non-natural sounds of electronic-monitoring equipment, is not conducive to patient recovery:
Typical hospital noises that frequently disrupt the sleep of hospitalized patients influence both cortical brain activity and increase patient heart rate, potentially having a negative impact on the patient's healing and cardiovascular health, according to research published online June 11 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In an effort to determine the effects of typical hospital noises by sound level and type on sleep disruption, Orfeu M. Buxton, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues conducted a three-day polysomnographic study in a sound-attenuated sleep laboratory; the study involved 12 healthy volunteers.
The researchers found that the level of arousal and sleep disruption varied according to the level and type of sound and the patient's sleep stage. Compared with voices and other sounds, electronic sounds were the most arousing. Sounds presented during non-REM stage-3 sleep were less likely to result in sleep disruption than when presented during non-REM stage-2 sleep. When presented during REM sleep, however, response to sounds varied less and resulted in a more sustained elevation of instantaneous heart rate.
Given the electronic sounds were the most disturbing to a sound night's sleep—affecting both brain activity and heart rates—this knowledge provides incentive for medical-equipment manufacturers to make quieter equipment. That would be a good start.

You can read the rest of the article at [DoctorsLounge]


  1. When I was in the hospital after my quadruple-bypass surgery, noises were among the many different factors that disturbed my sleep. Some noises came from within the hospital; others, from outdoors. The worst of the noises were car alarms.

  2. Yes, hospitals need to be built better, like luxury hotels or condos, to shut out unnatural sounds. Car alarms, a most useless and annoying invention, top the list.


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