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Sleep quality and noise: comparisons between hospital and home settings


Background Children and their parents report poor sleep in hospital and complain about noise.

Objective To measure sleep quality and noise levels in hospital and compare these with the home environment.

Design Observational within case-controlled study.

Setting Paediatric medical wards at Southampton Children’s Hospital and bedrooms at home.

Participants and methods Participants were children aged 3–16 years and their co-sleeping parents. Sleep quality was measured using actigraphy for a maximum of 5 nights in each setting. Median sound levels at the bedside were monitored overnight in a subgroup in both settings.

Main outcome measures Total sleep time, sleep efficiency, median sound levels overnight.

Results 40 children and 16 mothers completed actigraphy in both settings. Children had on average 62.9 min, and parents 72.8 min, per night less sleep in hospital than at home. Both children and parents had poorer sleep quality in hospital than at home: mean sleep efficiency 77.0% vs 83.2% for children and 77.1% vs 88.9% for parents, respectively. Median sound levels in hospital measured in 8 children averaged 48.6 dBA compared with 34.7 dBA at home and exceeded World Health Organization recommendations of 30 dB.

Conclusions Children and their mothers have poor quality sleep in paediatric wards. This may affect the child’s behaviour, recovery and pain tolerance. Sleep deprivation adds to parental burden and stress. Sound levels are significantly raised in hospital and may contribute to poor sleep. Reduction in the level of noise might lead to an improvement in sleep, affecting the quality of stay of both parent and child.

  • sound level
  • sleep quality
  • paediatric ward
  • environmental noise

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