Doctor: Sleep can help you heal in the ICU

DARBY, Pa. - April 18, 2014

If you have ever spent a night in the hospital, you probably know it's not always very quiet and you could be woken up several times throughout the night.

Dr. Dominic Valentino says, just like a serious illness or medication, those interruptions can be a cause of delirium - or mental confusion.

Delirium can last several years, even after someone is physically healthy.

"There are many people who can't function in their daily lives. They can't balance a checkbook or run a business because of persistent deficits from this bout of delirium," Dr. Valentino said.

It's something Kristi Hertzog knows all too well. She spent months in the ICU battling a severe case of the flu while pregnant with twins Aubrey and Courtney.

"The depression and the anxiety, auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations… there were so many other pieces that went into it," she said.

So, Dr. Valentino launched a study at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. Stable patients in the ICU were put on sleep protocol.

They were still monitored closely but allowed four and a half hours of uninterrupted sleep at night.

The results: patients who were on this at least 50-percent of the time suffered less delirium and were able to leave the ICU an average of four days earlier than patients not on sleep protocol.

Valentino says it was an easy, no -cost therapy with great results.

"It also opened my mind to other non-pharm methods we can do to add on to this," Dr. Valentino said.

That includes treatments like music therapy or light therapy during the day.

Also keep in mind: if you have a loved one in the hospital - and in very stable condition - you can ask the doctor to write orders to skip the middle of the night vital sign check.

We did this in the hospital where I used to work... They can't always do it but it doesn't hurt to ask.

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