Earplugs and eye masks improve critical care patients’ sleep

Disturbed sleep and sleep deprivation is common in patients in critical care settings. Noise and inappropriate use of light/dark cycles are two of the causes of sleep interruptions. The purpose of the study was to evaluate eye masks and earplugs to help control patients’ exposure to noise and light within the critical care environment. An intervention study using a two group post‐test quasi‐experimental design of high dependency patients within a cardiothoracic critical care unit was undertaken by a group of critical care nurses. Sleep assessment rating scales and open‐ended questions were used to obtain patients’ reported experiences of their sleep. Patients self‐selected into either an intervention or non‐intervention group.

  • 64 patients consented to take part in the study
  • 34 patients tried the interventions earplugs and eye masks and many found they improved sleep

However, noise was still a factor preventing sleep for both groups of patients. Mixed reports were found with the interventions from very comfortable to very uncomfortable.

Earplugs and eye masks were a relatively cheap intervention with notable improvements for some critically ill patients.

Further research is required with a larger sample size, plus an examination of both earplugs and eye masks separately. Offering patient’s earplugs and eye masks to improve sleep should be considered as a matter of routine nursing practice, this should include time to show patients how to use and try them out for comfort.

Read the study

Schlafmasken im Test [GERMAN]