Findings from a study showed that there is significant prevalence of insomnia in the primary care population in Malaysia, affecting a third of adult primary care attendees. According to the study, the presence of symptoms is associated with a higher risk of impaired functioning, poor mental health and poor wellbeing. Another study on the risks of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) indicated that persons with mild OSA were three times at risk of having hypertension than those without OSA.

Although clinical interventions would warrant in-depth research, hospitals can take certain initiatives and be proactive in helping and supporting patients with sleep disorders through various different means. The following are 5 significant ways in which hospitals can support this group of patients:

1. Handing out “Sleep well” care packages

A “sleep well” care package containing a CD with relaxation recordings may be useful for patients suffering from sleep disorder. The CD may contain nature sounds, such as the sound of water, ocean or rain, for instance.

Orfeu Buxton, an Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health at Pennsylvania State University said that slow, whooshing noises are sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people. The package can also include other items such as an eye mask and chamomile tea bags.

2. Display posters

Another initiative is to put up posters with messages that promote healthy sleep habits and display them on the walls of the corridors, wards, waiting room, or other suitable high-visibility areas inside the hospital. These posters can also contain relaxation tips or techniques that patients can easily remember and practice.

Some good examples are the posters designed by the Community Wellness team at MIT Medical. The posters are part of their effort to create an environment supportive of health and wellness.

3. Sleep therapy

Hospitals may engage a sleep therapist to host an informative session to educate patients and allow them the opportunity to understand the physiological aspects of sleep and achieve a healthier sleep pattern. According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, findings from a few studies found that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can benefit patients who suffer from chronic insomnia.

One research showed that CBT reduces false beliefs about sleep as well as addresses the behavioural aspect of it. In addition, group therapy and phone consultations using this particular therapy were also found to be a cost-effective alternative to individual therapy for the management of insomnia.

4. Sleep diary

A sleep diary is a tool to help patients record their sleep patterns and habits. It helps patients to easily visualise the habits and trends that help them to sleep as well as identify factors that hinder their sleep and habits that need to be improved.

This is one of the resources that can be offered to patients with sleep issues. It is also important that these patients are given appropriate advice, support and encouragement by hospital staff to utilize the sleep diary for their benefit.

5. Information sheet for caregivers

Sleep disturbances are not only a problem for patients who experience them, but they can also pose as a challenge to caregivers as well. An information sheet with tips and advice to alleviate the problem for sleep disorder patients, including advice on night-time routine and activities, can make it less overwhelming for caregivers.

It helps them to be more well-informed and thus be able to manage individuals under their care more efficiently, especially when it concerns elderly patients. The information sheet can also include links to other helpful resources for caregivers such as books, websites, online support groups and so on. MIMS 

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