How to Improve Your Sleep During a Hospital Stay

An elderly man in a hospital bed.

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We know that sleep is important to overall health and well-being, but it is especially important in the healing process. Unfortunately, we also know that much of the sleep patients get in hospitals is usually quite poor. In fact, sleep deprivation among patients admitted to the hospital overnight is a more common problem than many think. Thankfully, some hospitals are taking action to combat it by better coordinating care and limiting nighttime checks. However, those changes will not necessarily rid you of the problem entirely.

Below are some suggestions on how to improve your sleep during a hospital stay.

How to Improve Your Sleep During a Hospital Stay

Despite the trend of hospitals reviewing their policies that negatively impact patients' quality of sleep, there are just some things you will not be able to avoid. From bright fluorescent lights to the noise of busy doctors and nurses to medication side effects, the hospital will never be an ideal sleeping atmosphere.

So if you know that you are going to be admitted to the hospital overnight, plan ahead so that you can ensure that your body gets the quality rest you need while you're there. If you use these simple tips to improve your sleep while recovering from an illness or medical procedure, you may find that you heal faster.

Make It Dark

A dark room will encourage your body to go into a deep sleep, but the monitors and other lights in a typical hospital room give off too much light for you to rest easily. Find a good sleep mask to wear during the night. This will increase your chances of achieving deep, restorative sleep that can help speed your healing time.

Mask Noise

Hospital rooms are noisy, especially if you have a roommate. Get an MP3 player and download some white noise (a type of noise that sounds like static and muffles other noise) or purchase a soft pair of earplugs and use them as needed. You may find that they are especially helpful during the day when the halls are buzzing and you'd like to take a nap.

Get Some Light

During the day, especially in the morning, try to get some exposure to natural light. If you can walk or use a wheelchair, go outside or to the window if possible. Ask that the curtains be opened. Getting daylight exposure will help your body know what time of day it is and better regulate the hormone that affects sleep at night. If you can get some physical activity in, even if it's just a short walk, even better.

Talk to the Staff

While many hospitals are making changes to the nighttime policies, it is still a good practice to tell your nurses and doctors that you really want to make sleep a priority. Ask them to disturb you as few times as possible during the night. Most will do what they can to help you get your sleep between medically necessary checks.


Your brain won’t go into a deep sleep if you are stressed. Just being in the hospital and away from home is stressful enough to interfere with sleep. Counter that stress by staying calm, trying not to worry, and reminding yourself that you are in a very safe place.

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  • Southwell, M.t., and G. Wistow. "Sleep in Hospitals at Night: Are Patients' Needs Being Met?" J Adv Nurs Journal of Advanced Nursing 21.6 (1995): 1101-109.