When you think of an ideal location for the best sleep possible, a hospital never crosses your mind. The bright neon lights, the strange smells and noises, and, most importantly, the bed is not conducive to a good night’s sleep. The sheets are scratchy and your reason for being in the hospital often gets in the way of optimal sleep. Although you won’t get the best rest of your life in a hospital, there are a few tips to help you catch some quality shut-eye.
Why Good Sleep Matters
You know how much better it feels to wake up after a night of sound sleep than after a night of tossing and turning. Health experts understand the link between sleep and recovery, and that’s especially true if you are in the hospital. If you are in the hospital, you are most likely sick or in pain. Since the body is under a lot of stress, quality sleep can help accelerate recovery, and lack of sleep will only make your issues worse. According to sleep experts, quality sleep aids your recover in the following ways:
- Reduces stress hormone levels and increases alertness and energy.
- Decreases inflammation, which helps your tissues heal faster.
- Supports the immune system by allowing the body to produce antibodies, which the body produces less of when sleep is less than great.
- Improves your body’s ability to metabolize sugar. Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can get in the way of the body’s recovery, according to researchers.
All that is to say that sleep matters a great deal for your immune system and overall healing. Sleep during a hospital stay is integral for recovery, especially for older adults, because lack of sleep contributes to delirium. Without sufficient deep sleep, the brain cannot properly get rid of toxic metabolites, which leads to disorientation and agitation. That’s why experts have detailed the following tips for better sleep during your hospital stay.
Stay Consistent With Your Sleep Schedule
Ideally, replicate the same schedule you have at home during your hospital stay, or as close as you can. Avoid big meals close to bedtime and skip alcohol and caffeinated beverages in the evening. If you turn off screens at 9 p.m. and read for another 30 minutes to aid sleep, maintain this practice. Be consistent with any routines you may have, and that includes waking up at your usual time as well.
Be Active During The Day (If Possible)
This will all depend on why you are in the hospital and your overall ability to engage in light exercise. Remaining in your bed all day leads to poor sleep, and experts agree on the sentiment that being vertical by day leads to better sleep horizontally at night. Try to get out of bed as much as possible and move around to the best of your ability. If you cannot get out of bed, change the incline of the bed to be in a seated position. You can also engage in chair exercises, which you can learn more about by clicking here. Lastly, take care not to nap too much because excessive napping makes it harder to fall asleep at night.
Reduce Sound And Light At Night
In a hospital, it is very unlikely that you can replicate the blackout curtains and quiet comfort of your bedroom. Cover your eyes with a sleep mask to establish darkness and use ear plugs or headphones to help block out sound. You can also use a white noise machine, or an app on your phone if you are unable to bring your sleep machine from home. Try to avoid bright blue light from screens, especially an hour before you go to sleep.
Request Comfortable Items
If you can boost your comfort, why not? If you cannot bring a pillow or your cozy blanket from home, you can ask for extra pillows or blankets to make your bed more comfortable. You can also request to move to a room without a roommate if yours is disruptive.
Check Your Hospital’s Sleep Protocols
If you have to spend the night in the hospital, you may be woken up several times. Phlebotomists, for example, usually collect blood from patients at 4 a.m., so that labs are ready when physicians make their rounds. Nurses may stop by once or twice to check your blood pressure as well. None of that is conducive to a good night’s sleep! Researchers note that taking vitals from every hospitalized patient every four hours may not be necessary. It is better to talk with your doctors and nurses to contribute to better sleep. For example, you can ask for your blood to be drawn during waking hours, and whether you need overnight vitals. If they must wake you during the night, ask to have everything done at once. That will lead to fewer nighttime disturbances and better sleep.
Get Light During The Day
Exposing yourself to natural light during the day can help the body better prepare for sleep at night. Open your blinds during the day and engage in light exercise if possible. Depending on your room setup, that may or may not be possible. Just remember that natural light in the day and darkness at night is beneficial for your circadian rhythm.