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ICU Patients Not Getting Enough Sleep

Clinical-care protocols often deprive them of rest needed for healing, study says

THURSDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- The sleep patterns of intensive care unit (ICU) patients are so disrupted that the patients spend little time in the restorative phases of sleep that help promote healing, says a study by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

The study included 16 ICU patients who'd suffered traumatic injuries or had intra-abdominal surgical procedures. Patients with brain injures weren't included in the study, because these types of injuries typically cause abnormal sleep patterns.

The researchers used a specially equipped bed to monitor the ICU patients' brain waves for up to 24 hours and found that they had acceptable amounts of sleep time. However, their sleep patterns were fragmented and significantly abnormal. They spent 96 percent of their sleep cycle in superficial stages, compared to normal sleep, in which up to 50 percent is spent in the restorative stages.

The findings were published in The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection and Critical Care.

"Current clinical-care protocols routinely and severely deprive critically ill patients of sleep at a time when the need for adequate rest is perhaps most essential," lead author Dr. Randall Friese, an assistant professor of burn/trauma/critical care, said in a prepared statement.

"We haven't recognized the importance of prescribing sleep. Patients in the ICU may look like they are sleeping, but they're not sleeping well. They are not getting the restorative stages that are required," Friese said.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more about sleep.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, news release, December 2007

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