July 31, 2018
2 min read

Hospital noise reduces children's sleep time, quality

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Children and their parents who sleep in a hospital setting are exposed to noise levels that that surpass WHO’s recommended noise levels in Europe. This exposure, according to researchers, significantly reduces the amount and quality of sleep patients and their family receive.

Rosanna Bevan, BSc, BMBS, MRCPCH, from the division of clinical experimental sciences in the faculty of medicine at the University of Southampton, and colleagues wrote that in 2016, English children spent than 1 million nights in the hospital, a setting where poor sleep quality is reported by both parents and children.

“Research using self-reported sleep diaries, questionnaires and parental interview consistently indicates reduced sleep time, increased night waking and poor sleep quality in both children and co-sleeping parents,” the researchers wrote. “Self-reported measures can be inaccurate, but two small studies in oncology inpatients using objective measures of children’s sleep — wrist watch accelerometry or ‘actigraphy’ — support these assumptions.”

Bevan and colleagues observed the sleep quality and noise levels within hospitals and then compared these levels with those observed within the home.

They found that children between the ages of 3 and 16 as well as mothers of these children experienced reduced sleep time in the hospital. When compared with home settings, children slept 62.9 minutes less on average, and mothers slept 72.8 minutes less on average.

The quality of sleep in the hospital setting was also reduced, with the researchers observing an average sleep quality of 77% compared with 83.2% at home. The researchers also observed an average sleep efficiency of 77.1% for mothers in the hospital compared with an efficiency of 88.9% at home.

In Europe, WHO has established night noise guidelines, recommending that community noise should not exceed 30 A-weighted decibels, or dBA, in bedrooms. Bevan and colleagues observed that eight children were exposed to noise greater than a mean noise of 48.6 dBA. Although these children were exposed to 34.7 dBA at home while sleeping, WHO has stated that more than 30% of the European population is exposed to noise louder than 55 dBA at night.

The researchers wrote that research is limited on the effects of reduced sleep in children, but a relationship has been established between reduced sleep and increased pain in adult patients. They suggest it is “reasonable to assume” that these findings are true in children as well.

Better sleep might, in theory, improve children’s ability to cope with pain and reduce the need for analgesia,” Bevan and colleagues wrote. “There is also good evidence that sleep regulates immune function, although it is not known to what extent this is affected by sleep loss. As infection is the leading cause of hospital admission, it makes little sense to risk further impairment of immune function through sleep loss.” – by Katherine Bortz

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.