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Noisy Wards Could Threaten Hospital Patients' Health
Date:6/12/2012

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 11 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that sleep doesn't come easy for many hospitalized patients, with everything from ice machines to traffic to hallway talkers keeping them awake.

The finding, from a small study of 12 healthy people exposed to typical hospital noises, should sound an alarm about the effects of noise on patients' health.

"Everyone knows that sound disrupts sleep, but in a hospital setting this is a really big problem," said study lead author Orfeu Buxton, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, as well as an associate neuroscientist in the division of sleep medicine in the department of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

"There are noises that are happening all around patients . . . all the time, each of which, one after the other, is disrupting their sleep," he said. "IV pumps, alarms, phones, the voices of the staff on duty. And exposure to all of this -- even at the level of a whisper -- can actually accelerate a patient's heart rate by four or 10 beats a minute."

All of that can trouble sleep "and cause the kind of enormous patient disruption that can really compromise a patient's recovery process," Buxton said.

The findings are published online June 12 and in the June 19 print issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to the researchers, hospital patients queried in recent surveys often cited noise as a major factor negatively affecting their quality of care.

But what types of noise matter most? To find out, Buxton's team had a dozen healthy, young men and women spend three nights in a sleep laboratory.

After one night of normal sleep without exposure to noise recordings, all of the participants were then asked to try to sleep while being exposed to recordings of typical hospital sounds. "Internal" noise included gurneys moving down hallways, ice machines, staff
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