‘Prescription for Sleep’ Leads to Reduction in Analgesia Use

A new study has found that sleep positioning can reduce reliance on pain medication and improve the quality of life for people with dementia, Parkinson’s and other chronic conditions. The study, carried out by the University of Salford, highlighted how spending long periods in one position can have adverse effects on comfort, breathing, digestion and circulation but the use of positioning aids can help to counteract this.

The project involved 12 service users with complex needs and examined factors including, sleep quality, pain, risk of choking, skin condition, blood oxygen saturation levels, nutritional intake and mood. Following individual assessment, each service user was provided with a ‘personal prescription’ for night time positioning equipment.

The results of the study revealed improvements in sleep for 70% of participants and a reduction or absence of pain for all those involved. In one case, a service user with a long history of phantom pain following amputation, reported that the pain had resolved completely as a result of the interventions on his prescription.

Could ‘personal prescriptions’ for sleep be just what your service users need for an improved quality of life? Read on to find out more.

The equipment used in the study included specially designed pillows and positioning systems specified by an Occupational Therapist. In complex cases where specialist advice is needed, referral to an Occupational Therapist may be beneficial but, in many cases, the quality of sleep your service users experience can be improved by carrying out your own assessment and including a ‘personal prescription’ in their care plan. Using your existing knowledge of their abilities, preferences and past history, as well as involving them in developing their prescription, you can start to make small changes that could make a big difference!

See the Benefits to Your Service Users When You Include These 4 Factors in Your Sleep Prescription 

  1. Preferred sleeping position: Does your service user prefer to go to sleep on their left or right side? Or perhaps on their back? Positioning can make a huge difference to sleep quality, particularly if the person has a weaker side due to a stroke or has a painful wound. You may need to carry out positional changes during the night to maintain skin integrity but settling down in the optimum sleep position can ensure that the night starts well, and a period of good quality sleep is more likely.
  2. Equipment and aids: The use of pillows, cushions or specially prescribed positional aids can all help to maximise comfort and, in turn, sleep. Ensure these are recorded in the prescription and that they are ready and available for use. Even seemingly small steps, for example, making sure the person in your care has their preferred feather pillow rather than a standard foam pillow can help improve their quality of sleep.
  3. Temperature regulation: Does your service user feel the cold or tend to overheat at night? Helping them to maintain a comfortable temperature by providing suitable bedding, choosing appropriate night wear and heating or ventilating the room according to their preferences will help them sleep more soundly. Of course, you’ll need to adjust their prescription depending on the time of year, but a few simple adjustments can make a significant difference.
  4. Light levels: Some people need total darkness to sleep whereas others prefer the reassurance of a light. Record your service users’ preferences and adjust the night time lighting in their room accordingly.
  5. Food and drink: We all sleep better if we’re well fed and hydrated and, for some people, a night time snack or drink is an essential part of their sleep routine. Take time to find out each person’s preference, whether it’s a warm, milky drink or an alcoholic nightcap and incorporate it into their individual prescription to promote a good night’s sleep.

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