Last week’s column pointed out that patients in the hospital have so many visits from doctors, nurses, aides, kitchen staff, etc., that it’s hard to get much rest.  The editor, to make the column more upbeat and offer useful advice, added the suggestion that people ask if care visits can be consolidated, implying that doing so would solve the problem.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

For example, in the case I was discussing, 24 of the 97 person-visits involved 2 aides coming to reposition the patient every 2 hours, around the clock, to avoid bedsores.  That has to be done on schedule.  Each of the 12 times (in three hours) that an IV pump failed, the nurse had to come promptly to reset it.  And so forth.  

So what can you do to get more rest in the hospital?

First, bring several pairs of earplugs and some eye masks (also known as sleeping masks) with you to the hospital.  These can help when lights from the hallway spill into your room ; when carts clatter down the hallway; and so forth.  You might ask if the hospital offers wireless headphones for the TV, so your roommate can listen without bothering you.

Second, don’t hesitate to thank chatty family and friends for visiting – and then ask them to leave, or suggest they go to the cafeteria or visitors lounge, when you want to rest.

Third, if you expect to be in the hospital for more than a day or two, write down in a notebook (or have family or friends write down) the date, time, and nature of every occasion when someone enters your room (or your half of the room).  Someone comes to draw your blood?  Write it down.  You ask for ice water, which someone brings?  Write it down.  Someone comes to check your vital signs?  Write it down.

Fourth, after 24 hours, review the data and identify any issues that might be open for negotiation.  Can that 5:30 a.m. blood draw be delayed until 6:00 a.m.?  If you are sleeping at 11:00 p.m., can you skip the optional sleeping pill or pain medicine?  Do vital signs really have to be taken at 2:00 a.m.?  (Sometimes they do.)  Ask the nurse to help you with these issues. 

Fifth, if you yourself hit the call button so often that you have aides constantly coming in and out of your room, consider grouping your requests – ask for another blanket, some juice, and a box of tissues all at once, for example.

Sixth, do everything you possibly can to be safely discharged from the hospital as quickly as possible.  Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital is the best way to get more rest.