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Landmark Sound-Sleep Study Pinpoints Decibel Levels At Which Typical Hospital Sounds Are Too Loud For Sleep


Study includes findings and recommendations for designing hospital settings and protocols that reduce or eliminate noise, helping patients sleep better and aiding in their recovery.


CONCORD, CA (August 5, 2010)—Intravenous pump alarms and conversations between nurses are essential to hospital patient care, but they are also highly likely to keep patients from getting a good night’s sleep, according to a newly released, landmark study from The Center for Health Design (CHD).


Evidence-based design meets evidence-based medicine: The sound sleep study is the first study to identify decibel (dB) levels at which 14 typical hospital sounds are too loud for undisturbed sleep. The study’s results and recommendations are expected to drive innovation in design, construction, materials, equipment and care protocols to improve acoustics in healthcare environments, positively impacting medical outcomes and increasing safety.


The sound-sleep study was conducted by two Harvard researchers in Massachusetts General Hospital’s sleep laboratory. While participants slept, researchers played recordings of 14 different noises typically heard in a medical-surgical unit. Arousal information confirmed that at levels commonly experienced by patients, the selected hospital sounds significantly disrupted sleep.


For example, at the lowest sound level tested, 40 dB, intravenous alarm and phone signals aroused 88-94% of subjects; human voices aroused 70-75% of subjects; the sounds of an automatic towel dispenser, ice dispenser, door closing and toilet flushing aroused 35-73% of subjects.


Improving the acoustic environment


National surveys of hospital patients have shown that room noise levels received ratings that were worse than other quality of care indicators. Similarly, disrupted and/or limited sleep has been demonstrated to have adverse impacts on several important health measures and outcomes including blood pressure, weight gain, heart disease, pain, stress levels, and inflammation.


Getting a good night’s sleep contributes to higher patient satisfaction and aids in recovery, resulting in improved medical outcomes, shorter hospital stays and reduced costs.


The new sound-sleep study contributes to the growing effort of improving environments of care and related health outcomes. It contributes scientific evidence validating the provision of minimum acoustic standards recently established in the 2010 edition of the “Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities.’’


Sponsored by CHD through its Research Coalition, Facilities Guidelines Institute, and Academy of Architecture for Health Foundation, the study's principal investigators included Jo M. Solet, PhD, Orfeu M. Buxton, PhD and Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, MD, all from Harvard Medical School, Division of Sleep Medicine.


“The new sleep-sound study provides valuable knowledge to the growing field of evidence-based design,” says Debra Levin, president and chief executive officer, CHD. “The report is a valuable tool for designers who are working to improve the quality of healthcare environments. We look forward to seeing the findings of this study utilized in the field.”


“This is one the most exciting studies looking at the impact of hospital sounds on patient well-being,” adds Paul Barach, co-chair of CHD’s Research Coalition. “This is an important and new frontier that promises to enrich our understanding of how external factors, including the sounds and vibrations in healthcare facilities, can improve the quality of care that healthcare delivers.”


“Evidence-based design meets evidence-based medicine: The sound sleep study” is available by free download from CHD’s online store: store.healthdesign.org, under White Papers & Reports.


“Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities” is available from Facility Guidelines Institute:www.fgiguidelines.org/2010guidelines.html.


About The Center for Health Design

The Center for Health Design (CHD) formed in 1993, is a nonprofit research, education and advocacy organization of forward-thinking healthcare, elder care, design and construction professionals and product manufacturers who are leading the quest to improve the quality of healthcare facilities and create new environments for healthy aging. The CHD Research Coalition promotes the dissemination of research that contributes to therapeutic, safe, efficient and effective healthcare settings. The group also strives to support projects that fill critical gaps in the field of evidence-based design (EBD) while growing the network of researchers engaged in EBD by rewarding funds to select EBD research projects. For more information, visitwww.healthdesign.org.


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Thu, 08/05/2010