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No rest for the weary: a cross-sectional study comparing patients’ sleep in the emergency department to those on the ward


Background Boarding in emergency departments (EDs) is a persistent problem worldwide. We hypothesised that patients sleeping while being boarded in EDs have worse self-rated sleep than those admitted from EDs who sleep on the ward.

Methods Prospective cross-sectional study conducted at the University College Hospital, Galway between October and November 2016. Self-rated sleep in patients boarded in EDs from 23:00 to 07:00 was compared with those admitted to the ward before 23:00. Patients rated their sleep using the Richards-Campbell Sleep Questionnaire. Patients were excluded if they had cognitive impairment, were unable or incapacitated or had evidence of alcohol or drug use in the previous 24 hours. Continuous data are shown as medians (IQRs 25th–75th percentiles). Linear regression models of log-transformed outcome variables were performed.

Results Ninety-three patients were included and 22 were excluded. Patients who boarded in the ED were significantly more likely to be medical patients (78% vs 21%, p<0.001), to be older (median age (IQR)=60 (39-71) vs 47 (32-68), p=0.04) and have more urgent presentations (74% vs 48% presenting as Manchester triage category 1 or 2, p=0.01) than patients who sleep on a ward. Patients who slept on the ward had significantly better sleep scores (mean log-transformed sleep scores (SD)=2.92 (1.05) vs 3.72 (0.66), p<0.001)). Those sleeping in the ED reported greater noisiness than those sleeping on the ward (mean log-transformed noisiness scores (SD)=3.18 (1.10) vs 4.15 (0.57), p<0.001). These significant differences in sleep scores and noisiness ratings persisted after adjustment for age, triage category and admitting service.

Conclusion We found those who sleep boarded in EDs have worse self-rated sleep than those who sleep on the ward.

  • emergency department
  • performance improvement
  • quality
  • care systems
  • hospitalisations

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