It’s well-known that sleep is essential for recovery from injury or sickness but hospital environments often make it difficult to get uninterrupted sleep. Factors such as pain, medication effects, and anxiety can reduce the quality of sleep, particularly in paediatric patients. A new study shows that medical clowns could reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and shorten hospital stays.
For the study, published in the journal Scientific Journal, researchers examined how medical clowns, a non-pharmacologic intervention, affected sleep quality and hospital stay duration in paediatric patients. The data was collected from July 2019 to January 2022 from 42 paediatric patients aged between two and 18 years, who were predicted to stay for at least two nights, News Medical.
The findings showed that children who were exposed to a medical clown intervention before bedtime, showed a delayed wake-up time by about 27 minutes compared to those who were not. Furthermore, they also experienced longer time in bed and total sleep time as assessed by objective measures and parental estimates, the study revealed.
The total wake time during the night was a bit shorter among the children exposed to the medical clown intervention. Their mean sleeping period was also longer by 72 minutes and the mean number of awakenings during the night was lower, though these did not reach statistical significance. Notably, sleep efficiency was marginally higher for them, News Medical reported.
A significant finding was that on the night after the clown intervention, there was a significant increase in total sleep time by 54 minutes and improved sleep efficiency by 4.3%. The children also required less time to recover from surgery and to be discharged, the study showed. The researchers wrote in the paper that these findings “emphasize the positive impact of medical clowns on patients and the paramount importance of their integration into the medical system.”
Previous studies have shown that medical clown interventions can be beneficial in a hospital environment. A 2020 study published in BMJ showed that hospital clowns could improve physical symptoms and psychological well-being in children and adolescents undergoing treatment for acute or chronic conditions. The findings suggested that including appropriate laughter and play in clinical practice can be beneficial for young patients.