“The days are long but the nights are even longer”: A mixed-method study of sleep disturbances among patients in an inpatient rehabilitation program

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Objective: To assess sleep quality of patients on a rehabilitation ward and to identify staff practices and beliefs about management of sleep disturbance. Design: Mixed-methods design including patient surveys and staff interviews. Setting: Inpatient rehabilitation ward in a tertiary teaching hospital in Adelaide, Australia. Participants: Of the 345 screened inpatients who had been in a mixed post-acute rehabilitation ward for at least 5 days, 120 (43% women) were included. The mean age was 67.7 years and the main admission reason was functional decline (40%). Patients with stroke or traumatic brain injury were excluded. Eleven (n = 11) staff (a mix of doctors, nurses, and allied health) were interviewed. Main Outcome Measures: The surveys comprised of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, the Flinders Fatigue Scale, and the Sleep Inertia Questionnaire. The survey results were compared with functional outcomes using the functional independence measure (FIM). Staff interviews delved into barriers to good sleep, ward practices, and knowledge about sleep hygiene. Results: 43% of the surveyed patients reported having healthy amount of sleep. Sleep quality was not significantly correlated with rehabilitation outcomes (assessed using FIM). Staff reported having a good awareness of sleep hygiene; however, acknowledged limitations about the environment and routine which were not conducive to healthy sleep. They identified several actions which could be taken to improve patients’ sleep hygiene. Conclusions: Sleep disturbance is common for patients in rehabilitation. Rehabilitation wards should address this often-neglected critical component of rehabilitation to improve patient experience and potential participation in therapy. Introducing a systematic approach for assessing sleep during admission, establishing clear roles regarding sleep assessment and intervention among staff, and ensuring that patients and staff are aware of good sleep hygiene practices may promote better sleep during inpatient rehabilitation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100275
Number of pages10
JournalArchives of Rehabilitation Research and Clinical Translation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Functional status
  • Rehabilitation
  • Sleep
  • Sleep hygiene


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