We commend Gathecha et al.1 on the implementation of a well-formed, multicomponent sleep intervention to improve sleep in hospitalized patients. While they were unable to show objective improvement in sleep outcomes, they found improvements in patient-reported sleep outcomes across hospital days, implying that multiple hospital nights are needed to realize the benefits. We wish to propose an alternative strategy. To produce a more observable and immediate improvement in patient sleep outcomes, the behavioral economics principle of nudges2 could be an effective way to influence hospital staff toward sleep-promoting practices.
In focus groups at the University of Chicago Medicine, nurses, hospitalists, and residents reported unnecessary nocturnal disruptions were the “default” option hardwired in electronic medical records admission order sets. It was time-consuming to enter orders that minimized unnecessary nocturnal disruptions, such as forgo overnight vitals for stable patients. Given that changing default settings of order sets have been shown to effectively nudge physicians in other areas,3-5 altering default settings in admission orders could facilitate physicians’ adherence to sleep-promoting practices. An intervention combining these nudges with educational initiatives may be more effective in sustained reductions in nocturnal disruptions and improved inpatient sleep from the start of a hospital stay.