Objective. When a person is hospitalized, he or she enters an environment in which time is structured very differently than it is in everyday life. Research with healthy young subjects in sleep laboratories has indicated that disruption in activity-rest cycles significantly affects mood, physical skills, and cognitive performance. Older persons whose daily routines are upset when they become patients in a hospital may be even more vulnerable to performance deficits. This pilot study was implemented in a regional rehabilitation center as an initial step in exploring the relationships between variations in schedule and geriatric patients’ functioning while hospitalized.
Method. Single-subject methodology was used to study six elderly fracture patients’ responses to the addition of an afternoon nap to their daily routine. Data were collected each morning and afternoon, during “nap” and “no nap” weeks, with simple measures of alertness, concentration, strength, coordination, and reaction time.
Results. Tendencies toward late afternoon drowsiness and, in some cases, improved cognitive performance, were observed when naps were provided.
Conclusion. Data about the ways in which hospital routine affects performance can guide occupational therapists in advocating for balanced programs of activity and rest for older rehabilitation patients.