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Getting a good night’s sleep in the hospital

Last Modified: May 20, 2024

Family Medicine

sleeping in hospital bed

Quality sleep is one of the best forms of medicine, especially following a medical event that requires hospitalization. Between the bright lights, bustling activity and intermittent monitoring, obtaining undisturbed shuteye can be a challenge. However, with slight adjustments to your environment and routine, you can achieve the rest you need for recovery. Let’s discuss common sleep inhibitors you may encounter during a hospital stay and practical tips to get you tucked in and on your way to the "Land of Nod"!

What's keeping you up?

Trouble sleeping is a widespread complaint among hospital patients. There can be many reasons for this, including:

Noise and lights - Hospitals tend to be full of activity and brightly lit. Even if your room's light is off, fluorescent rays from the hall may bother you. Unfamiliar sounds from hospital equipment, intercom announcements, food and medicine carts or people in the halls may also hinder your slumber. 

Monitoring and medicine schedules - Nurses may wake you up at night to check your vital signs or give you medicine. Doctors often start their rounds early and may wake you before you feel well-rested.

Having a roommate - A roommate may have noisy visitors, talk loudly on the phone or snore. Even if the person is quiet, you may be bothered at night by nurses checking on or giving medicine to your roommate.

Stress - Being in the hospital is stressful. Anxiety about your health, job or family may disturb your sleep.

For tips on calming overactive thoughts, watch this video on mindfulness and sleep.

Sleeping better in the hospital

In addition to limiting naps and caffeine, you may want to try a few of these ideas.

Personal comfort - To create a cozier environment, bring items from home, such as your favorite pajamas, robe and slippers, your own pillow and blanket or a photo for your bedside table. 

Optimal sleeping conditions - Make your room dark, cool and quiet by closing the blinds, turning off the lights and shutting the door if possible. If your room has a thermostat, keep it at a cool temperature between 60 and 75°F at night. 

It may also be helpful to use a sleep mask and earplugs or play soothing sounds to block additional light and sound pollution. 

Visitation management - Encourage daytime or early evening visits only. Set a visiting curfew around 8 p.m. so you have time to wind down before bed. 

Sunlight exposure - Get sunlight during the day to help regulate your body's sleep and wake cycles. Open the curtains in the morning, sit by the window or ask a loved one to bring in a mood light. 

Physical activity - Staying active during the day can help you rest easier at night. Walk if you can or try light exercises from your bed or sitting in a chair. Discuss appropriate movements with a nurse or therapy team.

Roommate cooperation - If you have a roommate, coordinate nighttime practices to help you both sleep better. These may include turning off electronics, using headphones or limiting visitors past an agreed-upon time. 

Medication timing - Some prescribed medications can cause insomnia. If you take a medication that disturbs your sleep, ask your doctor if it can be taken during the day instead.

Seek support - Ask your care team for assistance. Nurses may be able to limit how often they wake you or adjust your monitoring and medicine schedules. You can also inquire about the possibility of being moved to a private room if your roommate's activities prevent you from sleeping. 

Keep in mind that these tips are meant to supplement your hospital stay and should be discussed with your primary care provider or nurse to ensure they align with your care plan.

Learn more

A hospitalization is a unique circumstance. If you have concerns about your sleep quality in your home or suspect you might have a sleep disorder, speak with your primary care provider and discuss the possible benefits of a Sleep Medicine consultation.


Copyrighted material adapted with permission from Healthwise, Incorporated. This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

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