60-Second Health

Hospital Noise May Disrupt Patient Improvement

Hospital sounds raised volunteer sleepers' heart rates, and the effects on sick patients may be impeding recovery. Katherine Harmon reports

Many who need restorative rest most might not be able to get it. Why? They’re in a hospital. Even at night, a hospital can be a noisy place. And research has shown that these noise levels have been rising for decades.

A new study finds that electronic noises in particular interfere with sleep.

Researchers followed the sleep patterns of a dozen healthy volunteers as they spent three nights sleeping in a lab. Their hours of darkness were punctuated with 14 different recorded hospital sounds played at varying volumes. Even when electronic sounds, such as alarm beeps, were played at the level of a whisper, volunteers slightly roused from sleep. The findings are in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. [Orfeu Buxton et al., "Sleep Disruption Due to Hospital Noises: A Prospective Evaluation"]

When the volunteers' sleep was disrupted, their heart rate increased. This frequently elevated heart rate could be especially bad for recovery. A little peace and quiet could make for a lot more restful nights.

—Katherine Harmon

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]      

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