IN BRIEF

The Baltimore Sun

Sleep

Hospitals go quiet for patients' health

After decades of poking and prodding patients at all hours, hospitals are waking up to the notion that sick people need sleep.

At least one Raleigh, N.C.-area health system -- WakeMed Health & Hospitals -- now observes nightly quiet hours at its facilities starting at 8 p.m.

Several intensive care units at hospitals across the region offer daily quiet time. Lights are dimmed, the volume on the overhead paging system comes down and routine care is scheduled before or after the break. Patients get two hours of undisturbed rest.

Health care workers have become so used to the din that they often don't realize the impact on patients, said Tina Dennis, a clinical nurse specialist at WakeMed's main hospital in Raleigh.

Dennis is leading a study at WakeMed to see whether giving patients in the neurointensive care unit a daily dose of peace and quiet encourages sleep. Last month, the unit started quiet hours between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. each day. Patients enlisted for the study will be observed to see whether the daily break indeed results in more slumber.

McClatchy-Tribune

Marriage

Couple's stress can alter blood pressure

A happy marriage is good for your blood pressure, but a stressed one can be worse than being single, a preliminary study suggests.

That second finding is a surprise because earlier studies have shown that married people tend to be healthier than singles, said researcher Julianne Holt-Lunstad.

It would take further study to sort out what the results mean for long-term health, said Holt-Lunstad, an assistant psychology professor at Brigham Young University. Her study was reported online last week by the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

The study involved 204 married people and 99 single adults. Most were white, and it's not clear whether the same results would apply to other ethnic groups, Holt-Lunstad said.

Study volunteers wore devices that recorded their blood pressure at random times over 24 hours. Married participants also filled out questionnaires about their marriage. Analysis found that the more marital satisfaction and adjustment spouses reported, the lower their average blood pressure was over the 24 hours and during the daytime.

Associated Press

Transfusions

Older blood boosts risk, study suggests

Heart surgery patients were more likely to die or suffer problems if they received transfusions of blood that is more than two weeks old rather than fresher blood, according to a new study that adds to the debate about the shelf life of blood.

Although not the final word, the study underscores concerns that blood deteriorates with age and that rules allowing blood to be stored for six weeks may pose a safety risk, at least for certain patients.

The findings bolster the argument of those who believe that older blood should be avoided, wrote Dr. John Adamson of the University of California, San Diego in an editorial accompanying the study in a recent New England Journal of Medicine.

"However, the results of this study will not settle the debate" because the patients studied were not representative of all transfusion recipients, he added.

The report was limited to heart surgery patients, but similar results have been shown in smaller studies that looked at other types of patients.

Associated Press

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