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  • Dr Kevin Rafferty FRCA

ICU usage of Virtual Reality Made patients sleep better

Currently working in ICU and I am reminded of the difficulties we face when people are getting better. The key to getting people better once organ support is being reduced is physiotherapy and management of delirium. Physiotherapists in the UK are outstanding and integral members of the ICU team. However our management of delirium has room for improvement. Historically this was deemed to be an issue that would be resolved with more medication however this is likely to exacerbate the problems. A non pharmacological technique would be great, this south Korean paper seems to suggest that virtual reality has a role in improving sleep. Better sleep would reduce delirium and allow better physiotherapy to occur reducing ICU rehabilitation times.




Effect of virtual reality meditation on sleep quality of intensive care unit patients: A randomised controlled trial

Intensive and Critical Care Nursing

Available online 31 March 2020, 102849

Soon YoungLee, JiyeonKang, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Dong-A University Medical Center, Busan, South KoreabCollege of Nursing, Dong-A University, Busan, South Korea

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.iccn.2020.102849



Objective This study aimed to investigate the effect of virtual reality meditation on sleep quality of intensive care unit patients.

Methods This randomised controlled trial included 48 cardiac intensive care unit patients in a university hospital in Korea randomly allocated to the experimental (24) and the control group (24). For the experimental group, meditation was provided for 30 minutes using a head-mounted display for virtual reality, on the evening of the admission day. Main outcome measures The sleep quality of both groups was measured by self-report using Sleep Scale A and the activity tracker FitBit Charge 2.

Results The experimental group reported significantly higher subjective sleep quality than did the control group. Activity tracker assessment indicated that total sleep time and light sleep time did not differ between the groups. However, the awake time was shorter, deep sleep time was longer and sleep efficiency was significantly higher in the experimental group than in the control group.

Conclusion Virtual reality meditation positively affected the sleep quality of intensive care unit patients. Critical care nurses should consider using virtual reality meditation as a nursing intervention to improve the patient’s sleep quality.


The South Koreans are very advanced in using virtual reality in health care and reading their research has been beneficial to me in the development of the Rafferty Distraction Headset. Sadly as in all ICU care there is unlikely to be a silver bullet but may be a weapon in the armoury.


Dr Kevin Rafferty




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