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Sleeping soundly


Hospitals are noisy places. This means patients sleep poorly, affecting their experience and recovery, while noise levels also have an impact on staff practices. Yet despite much research over the past 20 years addressing the problem of ‘noise’, the recommended maximum sound levels for hospitals continue to be exceeded.

A remarkable collaborative project between the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care and the University of the Arts London, facilitated by the Cultural Institute at King’s, offers a fresh perspective on this long-standing problem.

Their collaboration, Hospital Project on Noise, Sound and Sleep (HPNoSS), is attempting to provide a holistic understanding of sound in the hospital environment and the intimate relationship of noise to sleep, rest, treatment and recovery.

The project’s aim is to improve the experience of noise and sound within London’s hospitals and to explore ways to reduce its negative impact – and thereby to improve the wellbeing of hospital patients and staff. The HPNoSS approach seeks to view the hospital ‘soundscape’ as a malleable component of the healthcare environment, and one that can have positive as well as negative effects.


Bringing together academics, artists, engineers, nurses and patient advocates, HPNoSS seeks to raise awareness of the issues around noise among nursing, medical and other hospital staff and is exploring practical solutions that will contribute to staff and patient wellbeing – and potentially improve recovery times.

In recent months, the team has visited various Intensive Care Units across London, observing and recording sound levels. With the cooperation of two tech companies – one specialising in sound masking and the other in noise-cancelling – these recordings will be used in an experimental workshop and symposium exploring participants’ perceptions of a multi-channel recreation of hospital soundscapes and possible strategies for reducing its negative effects.

In a simulation ward setting normally used for training purposes, participants will be asked to listen and interact with the recordings, and to judge which interventional techniques or combination of techniques might make the soundscape more acceptable. It is hoped that the symposium recommendations and positive soundscape components will be developed and then tested in the clinical environment.

The result could eventually help to ensure patients in London’s hospitals get a good night’s sleep.

Find out more about the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care


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