Use of complementary and alternative therapies to promote sleep in critically ill patients

Kathy Richards, Corey Nagel, Megan Markie, Jean Elwell, Claudia Barone

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

The efficacy of complementary and alternative therapies for sleep promotion in critically ill patients is largely unexamined. We found only seven studies (three on environmental interventions and one each on massage, music therapy, therapeutic touch, and melatonin) that examined the effect of complementary and alternative therapies. A number of studies, however, have shown that massage, music therapy, and therapeutic touch promote relaxation and comfort in critically ill patients, which likely leads to improved sleep. Massage, music therapy, and therapeutic touch are safe for critically ill patients and should be routinely applied by ICU nurses who have received training on how to administer these specialized interventions. Environmental interventions, such as reducing noise, playing white noise such as ocean sounds, and decreasing interruptions to sleep for care, also are safe and logical interventions that ICU nurses should use to help patients sleep. Progressive muscle relaxation has been extensively studied and shown to be efficacious for improving sleep in persons with insomnia; however, progressive muscle relaxation requires that patients consciously attend to relaxing specific muscle groups and practice these techniques, which may be difficult for critically ill patients. We do not currently recommend aromatherapy and alternative sedatives, such as valerian and melatonin, for sleep promotion in critically ill patients because the safety of these substances is unclear. In summary, we recommend that ICU nurses implement music therapy, environmental interventions, therapeutic touch, and relaxing massage to promote sleep in critically ill patients. These interventions are safe and may improve patient sleep, although randomized controlled trials are needed to test their efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-340
Number of pages12
JournalCritical care nursing clinics of North America
Volume15
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care

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