Sleep hygiene is about creating the conditions for patients to have a normal quality night’s sleep, and so increase their daytime alertness.

It’s important we all practice a good sleep hygiene routine to help get the best nights sleep we can. Different people require a different amount of sleep. We all go through periods of sleep disturbances and may need to change our routines to help combat these problems. Sleep is an essential part of life and contributes to us feeling well and happy.

For patients acutely ill in hospital there is an extra battle with factors affecting their sleep. Sleep disruption is a common issue, especially at times when they may feel emotionally overwhelmed. Therefore, as health professionals we try to make changes to help with patients sleep hygiene, and help improve their quality of sleep.

Poor sleep among critically ill patients is associated with prolonged mechanical ventilation, risk of developing delirium, and longer hospital stays. These risk factors are why we strongly promote sleep in the Intensive Care Unit.

Several measures that have been effective at improving patients’ sleep are simple and easy to do. Once these are in place, they can help decrease nursing workload through preventing delirium and shortening patient stays.

So what are we doing to make a difference?

Many of our patients have told us they have trouble sleeping during their stay with us, so along with the steps we have taken to improve conditions for them, we have this week launched a sleep hygiene promotion week.

So this week we are promoting best practice among our nursing team and bank staff, and have formalised some of the techniques we have been using in recent months.

We have introduced a new sleep hygiene notice board for the unit, along with a large banner reminding visitors to the ward about the importance of quiet for our patients.

Patients who need them will now have an opportunity to use ear plugs, eye masks and headphones if they like.

We have two new “Sound Ears” – fun visual devices which subtly notify staff when a pre-set noise level is reached, and volunteer Sleep Hygiene Helpers (SHHs) who will help remind colleagues about sleep hygiene.

Colleagues are now asked to keep sleep hygiene records each night for appropriate patients, and the whole team have been offered an opportunity to be involved in a future sleep study to share their patients’ experience with noise at night.

We’ll keep on reviewing the changes we have made so we can ensure our patients have the best chance of good sleep hygiene and as speedy a recovery as possible.