Night-time Noise Levels and Patients’ Sleep Experiences in a Medical Assessment Unit in Northern England

Felicity Astin, John Stephenson, Jonathan Wakefield, Ben Evans, Priyanka Rob, Joanne Garside, Emma Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Hospital in-patients need sleep for their restorative and healing processes to take place. However, over one-third of in-patients experience sleep disturbance, often caused by noise. This can compromise patients’ perceptions of care quality and cause poor physical and psychological health.
Aims: This study assess in-patients sleep quality, quantity, reported sources of sleep disturbances and suggestions for improvement and objectively measures decibel levels recorded at night.
Methods: This is a descriptive study conducted at a Medical Assessment Unit using multi-methods such as, a semi-structured ‘sleep experience’questionnaire administered to a purposive sample of in-patients; recording of night-time noise levels, on 52 consecutive nights, using two calibrated Casella sound level meters.
Results: Patient ratings of ‘in-hospital’ sleep quantity (3.25; 2.72 SD) and quality (2.91; 2.56 SD) were poorer compared to ‘home’ sleep quantity (5.07;2.81 SD) and quality (5.52; 2.79 SD). The difference in sleep quality (p<0.001) and quantity (p<0.001) ratings whilst in the hospital, compared to that at home, was statistically significant. Care processes, noise from other patients and the environment were common sources of sleep disturbance. Participants’ suggestions for improvement were similar to interventions identified in a current research. The constant noise level ranged from 38-57 decibels (equivalent to an office environment), whilst peak levels reached a maximum of 116 decibels, (equivalent to a rock concert).
Conclusion: The self-rated patient sleep experience was significantly poorer in the hospital, compared to home. Noise at night contributed to sleep disturbance. Decibel levels were equivalent to those reported in other international studies. Data informed the development of a ‘Sleep Smart’ toolkit designed to improve the in-patient sleep experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-91
Number of pages12
JournalOpen Nursing Journal
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2020

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