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Highly Accessed Open Badges Review

Clinical review: The impact of noise on patients' sleep and the effectiveness of noise reduction strategies in intensive care units

Hui Xie12*, Jian Kang1 and Gary H Mills2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

2 Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundations Trust, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK

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Critical Care 2009, 13:208  doi:10.1186/cc7154

See related commentary by Bosma and Ranieri,

Published: 9 March 2009


Excessive noise is becoming a significant problem for intensive care units (ICUs). This paper first reviews the impact of noise on patients' sleep in ICUs. Five previous studies have demonstrated such impacts, whereas six other studies have shown other factors to be more important. Staff conversation and alarms are generally regarded as the most disturbing noises for patients' sleep in ICUs. Most research in this area has focused purely on noise level, but work has been very limited on the relationships between sleep quality and other acoustic parameters, including spectrum and reverberation time. Sound-absorbing treatment is a relatively effective noise reduction strategy, whereas sound masking appears to be the most effective technique for improving sleep. For future research, there should be close collaboration between medical researchers and acousticians.