Sleep deprivation and poor nutrition a risk in hospitals


Healthy patients can develop weakened immune systems, dangerous fatigue and impaired judgment within 24 hours if subjected to sleep deprivation and lack of nutrition.

This is according to Dr Marty Makary, a speaker at the World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress – Asia Pacific, November 14-16, 2015, in Guilin, China.

Makary, a patient safety expert and surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, in Baltimore, Md, called on hospitals to reform potentially dangerous medical protocols involving food and sleep deprivation that can exacerbate illnesses in seriously ill patients.

Published in BMJ Quality & Safety, Makary described a typical case of a 65-year-old woman who develops pneumonia at home and feels too sick to eat or drink much for several days. She then goes to the emergency room, where medical personnel withhold food in case she needs certain invasive tests or surgery. If needed, surgery might add more days without food and little sleep, owing to continuous monitoring and noise inside and outside of her hospital room. Adding to sleep problems, many lights remain on, particularly in the emergency department, and lab draws of blood occur at all times of day and night.

"Avoidable starvation and induced sleep deprivation are ubiquitous in healthcare. It's no surprise that these factors influence patient outcomes," said Makary, who created the Surgical Checklist later popularized in the book The Checklist Manifesto. "We should view hospitals as healing environments rather than isolated clinical spaces and design patient care accordingly."

Dr Marty Makary, Johns Hopkins Hospital, US, Asia-Pacific