Training support staff improves sleep efficiency in people with learning disabilities


Sleep problems are commonly found in people with learning disabilities who live in residential settings, but the authors of this study were concerned that insufficient attention was being is paid to them in the literature and consequently in practice.

They set out to improve the knowledge and understanding of sleep quality and sleep problems among care staff at a residential facility and as a result reduce sleep problems.

They worked with a crossover design with two groups and measured sleep efficiency and sleep latency in people not suspected of having sleep problems four times.

One group of staff (group A) was offered a lecture after the first measurement and a workshop after the second. The second group (group B) only had the lecture which was offered between the second and third measurements.

The researchers found that in both groups, sleep efficiency rose significantly with the time spent in bed by residents supported by the staff in group A being reduced significantly. They also found a significant reduction in daily napping among group A’s residents.

For those people supported by staff in group B, daily napping increased significantly, both in terms of the time spent napping and time and in the number of naps.

The authors conclude that educational techniques, such as lectures and workshops can improve residents’ sleep efficiency.

Utility of Staff Training on Correcting Sleep Problems in People With Intellectual Disabilities Living in Residential Settings, Hylkema T et al, in  Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 8, 2, 85–91,

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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