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Delirium, Intensive care unit, Medication, Sleep, Sedation



  1. Whitcomb, John J. PhD, RN, CCRN, FCCM
  2. Morgan, Michelle MSN, RN
  3. Irvin, Tameka BSN, RN
  4. Spencer, Kathleen SN
  5. Boynton, Lauren SN
  6. Turman, Sarah SN
  7. Rhodes, Christopher SN


Introduction: Delirium continues to be a major issue in intensive care units (ICUs). Sedation and lack of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep could be important factors in the development of delirium. Improper sedation may interfere with a patient's sleep pattern, specifically time spent in REM sleep, and could be a contributor to the development of delirium. The research team has discovered through this pilot study that there is a possible correlation between sedation, disruptions, and sleep. The goal of our research was to determine the relationship between these variables using a sleep monitor to capture actual sleep activity compared with patient characteristics and real-time activity in the ICU environment.


Materials and Methods: This was a pilot study of 7 new patients, aged 65 years or older, who were intubated and sedated. Data on patient sleep cycles were collected using a wireless sleep monitor. A time sheet was placed outside each room to record time and type of interruption during nighttime hours (9 PM-6 AM). The patients were observed for 1 to 7 nights dependent on their length of stay in the ICU.


Results: Preliminary results demonstrated that, on average, between 9 PM and 6 AM, 48% remained awake (range, 8%-88%), 30% were in light sleep (range, 2%-50%), 18.5% were in REM (range, 2%-60%), and 3.4% were in a deep sleep (range, 0%-9%). Subject 1 remained awake 52% to 88% of the time during the entire admission of 7 days, had an Intensive Care Delirium Screening Checklist score of 5, and had a self-extubation; sedation ordered was Versed as needed. Subject 5 had no interventions done between 12 midnight and 4:50 AM, with the exception of turning once, and had an REM recorded of 60% on 1 night, which equals to 4 hours 49 minutes of rest. All patients with the exception of 1 were on fentanyl and Versed drips with varying dose adjustments throughout their admission.


Implications: Preliminary results show that there is a relationship between lack of REM sleep and delirium. The pilot study was a useful model to demonstrate the need for further investigation in a larger population.