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Sleep in the Intensive Care Unit Setting

Patel, Maulik MD; Chipman, Joseph MD; Carlin, Brian W. MD; Shade, Daniel MD

doi: 10.1097/01.CNQ.0000336816.89300.41

Sleep is essential to human life. Sleep patterns are significantly disrupted in patients who are hospitalized, particularly those in the intensive care unit. Sleep deprivation is pervasive in this patient population and impacts health and recovery from illness. Immune system dysfunction, impaired wound healing, and changes in behavior are all observed in patients who are sleep deprived. Various factors including anxiety, fear, and pain are responsible for the sleep deprivation. Noise, light exposure, and frequent awakenings from caregivers also add to these effects. Underlying medical illnesses and medications can also dramatically affect a patient's ability to sleep efficiently. Therapy with attempts to minimize sleep disruption should be integrated among all of the caregivers. Minimization of analgesics and other medications known to adversely affect sleep should also be ensured. Although further research in the area of sleep deprivation in the intensive care unit setting needs to be conducted, effective protocols can be developed to minimize sleep deprivation in these settings.

Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Drexel University School of Medicine (Drs Patel, Carlin, and Shade) and Division of Neurology (Dr Chipman), Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Corresponding Author: Daniel Shade, MD, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Drexel University School of Medicine, Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA 15212 (

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.