Does improving sleep for the critically ill reduce the incidence and duration of delirium? An evidence-based review

Nurs Crit Care. 2023 Sep;28(5):738-743. doi: 10.1111/nicc.12906. Epub 2023 Apr 3.


Delirium is associated with poor patient outcome. Critical-care nurses maintain that patients with disrupted sleep appear to develop delirium. We sought to explore whether improving sleep in the critically ill patients reduced the incidence and duration of delirium. Our review of five relevant studies suggests that there is low-quality evidence that improving sleep may reduce the incidence of delirium. The bidirectional association between delirium and sleep stymies research in this area, and thus, establishing cause and effect, is difficult. Research exploring other patient-centred outcomes, such as pain intensity, suggests that enhancing sleep may improve these outcomes.

Keywords: critical illness; delirium; sleep.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Critical Illness
  • Delirium* / epidemiology
  • Delirium* / etiology
  • Delirium* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Sleep