Ask for Menus and Other Ways to Make Your Next Hospital Stay More Bearable

Nobody likes being in the hospital. Aside from the inevitable connection between hospitals and disease (not to mention death), they have everything we hate: chaotic, expensive, and inconvenient. The whole experience can be maddening – you are woken up at any time of the day for questions, tests and medications; orderlies will deliver mysterious trays that they claim contain “lunch” but contain only horror; and you will probably share it all with a stranger in the next bed.

But it’s important to remember that we’re not powerless once we’re in the hospital—there are ways to make being in a general hospital room more enjoyable.

How to feel comfortable in a hospital room

There are two basic truths about hospital rooms: the bed will be the least comfortable sleeping platform you will ever come across, and the bedding will be recognizable as such only by its shape and position on the bed. In other words, bring your own things. It includes:

  • Bed dress. Take pillows, sheets, blankets with you – everything you need for a normal night’s sleep.
  • Cloth. Thanks to TV and movies, many people assume that you are legally required to wear a thin hospital gown that exposes your butt for all to see when you are in the hospital. It is not true. If your procedure allows, bring a change of clothes (including sleepwear) to ensure you are comfortable at all times.
  • Slippers/socks. Not only are hospital rooms generally cold, you’ll also need shoes that have some traction because hospital floors tend to be slippery.
  • Snacks. Unless you are on a strict diet due to surgery or a condition, bring some comfort food with you. Your favorite snack or healthy option can have a big impact on your mood and overall experience.
  • Entertainment. For God’s sake, don’t rely on a tiny TV on the wall for entertainment. Download movies, games, books and music to your device.

How to control your environment in the hospital

Hospital wards are not just utilitarian – they are often aggressive, without any touch of warmth or decor. Not only can spartan living conditions interfere with sleep, they can also be downright depressing, as the gloomy decor leaves you with nothing to think about but your health and discomfort.

The point is to have as much control over your environment as possible. A few essentials include:

  • Noise canceling headphones and/or earplugs. Hospital rooms are noisy . Even if your roommate doesn’t talk on the phone all day, there will be endless noise coming from the main part of the floor. There will also be a lot of noise from whatever machines you are connected to. It is very important to have some way to block this noise.
  • Mask for sleep. Take a mask with you, even if you have never thought about it. Every time an employee enters your room to check on your roommate, the lights go on. And the lights never turn off on the floor, so there will always be some level of light pollution.
  • Decorations and lighting. Flowers aren’t the only legal decoration in a hospital room. Bring framed photos, colorful throw pillows, and any trinkets that bring you joy. Since the natural light in your room is probably terrible, you might also consider bringing a small, soft-bulb lamp with you.
  • Toiletries. You must bring your own toothpaste, comb and other care and hygiene products. The hospital will provide some of these things, as will your local Motel 6, but having your own familiar items will enhance your experience.

You might also consider some kind of diffuser because hospitals can be a smelly place. Basically, take with you anything you’d rather see or touch than anything the hospital will provide you with.

How to better manage your stay in the hospital

Being in the hospital can make you feel powerless. Not only are you likely to be sick or injured, the staff is trained to be very strong (for your own good). This can give the impression that you just have to lie back and do as you are told, but you have more control than you think. A few things to consider:

  • Avoid daytime naps. Lying in bed all the time can naturally cause you to give up and fall asleep – after all, daytime naps are great for passing the time. But napping during the day will affect your sleep rhythms and keep you staring up at the ceiling all night.
  • The exercise. If you are allowed, get out of bed and walk as much as possible. If you are mobile, you can probably move to other floors. Be as mobile as possible – this will improve your mood and sleep.
  • Ask for medicine. Sleep problems? Does this hospital bed make your back feel like glass? Ask your nurse for some pharmaceutical help, such as sleeping pills or pain medication. Your request will be reviewed by healthcare professionals, but they will gladly grant it if allowed. You will, of course, be billed for each pill, but sneaking in your supply is risky because your healthcare team won’t know what you’re taking.
  • Dig into the menu. Hospitals often have a surprisingly wide variety of food options, so don’t be afraid to ask about options and make requests. The staff will do their best to accommodate you.
  • Learn cars. The devices you are connected to in your room can be quite noisy, and constant alarms and beeps can be distracting. If the intravenous alarm that goes off every time you breathe strangely drives you crazy, ask your nurses if they can show you how to reset it yourself. A little more control can do wonders for your state of mind.


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