Hospital's new measures helping patients doze off

Patients at North Shore Hospital are getting a better night's sleep thanks to a new pilot scheme.

Good rest helps recovery and repair, but noisy wards aren't the best environments for sweet dreams.

"Sleep is really important to our patients, to ensure that they get a good night's sleep, which will enable them to become better, quicker," says David Price, Director of Patient Experience at Waitemata DHB.

But beeping equipment, rattling trolleys, lights, talking and general checks and aren't conducive to getting a good rest.

"We just took it on the chin," says renal patient Rikki McGregor. "There were disturbances up and down the ward - that happened, that's part of what hospital's like."

But patients reported it left them feeling a little tired and grumpy, so Waitemata DHB has been making a few changes on three of its wards to improve the sleep environment.

Patients are given a sleep pack, which is similar to a flight kit - it comes with an eye mask, ear plugs and chamomile tea to give patients a better in-hospital experience.

Well Foundation chief executive Andrew Young says they reached out to doctors, sleep experts and even Air New Zealand for help.

"Air New Zealand has a huge focus on passenger care and sleep while people are in the air for a long time, and they immediately saw that there was great crossover in what they're trying to do and what we're trying to do here with patients.  So they provided for example the eye masks for the packs."

They're also dimming the lighting in the evenings, minimising noise from machines and making sure there are no squeaky wheels on trolleys.

They're also consulting sound engineers on devices which emit pink and white noise to cancel out general hospital hubbub.

And when it comes to medication and checks, they try to work in with a patient's sleep schedule.

"One of the things I've encouraged my staff to do is have a conversation with these patients before going into nightshift," says Charge Nurse Manager, Jason Russell, "to say, 'we need to wake you up twice during the nightshift, what works well for you?'"

And it seems to be popular. 

Rikki McGregor says he has no trouble dozing off now, saying "I'm gaining an extra 15 to 20 minutes sleep."

They're hoping to roll it out across the district health board in the New Year.