Earplugs and Eye Masks Help Promote Sleep

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April 19, 2010

It's often difficult to sleep in a well lit room or one that is noisy. Unfortunately, patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) of most hospitals are not exempt from being subjected to light and noise as hospital staff care for them and other patients. Is it possible for patients to get good quality sleep in a busy ICU? Yes, according to Chinese researchers who simulated an ICU environment to carry out research which found that ear plugs and eye masks can help alleviate some of the negative physiological and psychological effects of ICU noise and light. The study applied polysomnography tests to the study's participants and subjected them to a variety of sleep conditions. Some participants were allowed the use of earplugs and eye masks. During the study the participants' urine was analyzed for melatonin and cortisol levels and they were made to report on their perceived sleep quality. The study found that nocturnal melatonin and cortisol secretion levels differed significantly by sleep condition even when anxiety levels did not vary. According to the researchers, the use of earplugs and eye masks resulted in more REM time, shorter REM latency, less arousal and elevated melatonin levels. The study concluded that ear plugs and eye masks promote sleep and hormone balance in healthy subjects exposed to simulated ICU noise and light. Learn more about the effects of noise, light and other factors on your sleep environment – and check out the study .