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Participatory action research intervention for improving sleep in inpatients with cancer



To design and implement a plan to improve oncohaematological patients’ sleep.


The hospital environment can compromise inpatients’ sleep, negatively impacting on health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Design and Method

The improvement plan was designed in collaboration with 18 professionals, 3 patients and 3 accompanying relatives. The study designed followed the SQUIRE 2.0 guidelines. Outcome variables were self-reported patient satisfaction regarding sleep, measured using a 30-item, ad hoc questionnaire and a 10-point visual analogue scale, completed by 318 oncohaematological inpatients (pre-intervention n = 120, post-intervention, n = 198) in a comprehensive cancer centre in Spain from 2017 to 2019.


Overall, 61.5% (n = 190) of the inpatients reported sleep alterations, and 92.6% reported interruptions in their nightly sleep. Half slept less than 6 h/night, but 58.0% said they felt rested upon waking, despite the interruptions. These outcomes were similar before and after the intervention. The improvement plan identified four domains for work (professionals, care procedures, instruments/environment and patients/relatives), 10 areas for improvement and 35 actions for implementation.

However, overall sleep worsened significantly, from 6.73 to 6.06 on the 10-point scale. The intervention significantly improved variables related to professionals’ behaviour, including noise during the shift change, conversations at the control desk and the use of corridor lights. Sleep disturbances were mainly caused by pain/discomfort and infuser alarms, and collectively they decreased significantly after the intervention (= .008). However, overall sleep worsened significantly, from 6.73 to 6.06 on the 10-point scale.


Pain, clinical devices and noise made by professionals are the main causes of sleep disturbances. Involving professionals in decision-making to improve patients’ sleep have a positive impact on noise levels.

Relevance to clinical practice

This study proposes new strategies for improving sleep by increasing staff awareness and changing attitudes towards patients’ sleep. Nurses should be involved in addressing sleep disturbances during hospitalization.