It’s Hard to Eat or Sleep in Hospitals, Hopkins Research Says

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When people are hospitalized, they’re in an incredibly vulnerable state from dealing with whatever injury or illness put them there in the first place. And everyone knows that good food and good sleep are crucial components of healing. So why is eating and sleeping so miserable in hospitals?

Recent research out of Johns Hopkins takes a closer look at how hospitals often make dangerous mistakes when approaching patients’ needs for food and sleep. For example, emergency room visitors are often denied food in case they might need surgery later. Lights are kept on at night, making it difficult to sleep. Blood tests and check-ups may happen at random points during the middle of the night, interrupting sleep. Subjecting a sick person to such a regime of sleep and nutritional deprivation is a sure way to make them sicker, the researchers note. To make matters worse, much of the food deprivation is unnecessary, and better hospital policies–say, providing eye masks and soothing music–could make it easier for patients to sleep.

And so instead of being a place of healing, hospitals become a place where people get worse. “Subject sick or elderly individuals to those same conditions and each next medical intervention becomes more dangerous as their illness takes a turn for the worse,” Hopkins surgeon Martin Makary, an expert on patient safety, says. “We should view hospitals as healing environments rather than isolated clinical spaces and design patient care accordingly.”

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