Wake Up the Patient

Should you wait for a sleeping patient to wake up?

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Comments (27)

(25) Shoshana-Jerusalem, May 3, 2015 5:31 PM


Ask the nurse or doctor. Usually the person is not so sick and it's not dangerous to wake them and it's actually healthy for them to have a visitor for this cheers them and makes them feel cared for and puts them in a good mood, which is so essential for recovery.
Of course, don't overdo it.

(24) Anonymous, July 6, 2013 3:57 PM


Always bring a book. Sit quietly and read until the person wakes up.

(23) Mati, June 24, 2013 11:48 PM

I think you should because I would want to be

It may or may not be selfish, but I think you should wake the person up because I would want that myself. Hospital visits are boring and I would end up sleeping myselft to make the time go by faster. I would hate to miss ANYONE who was there and left because I was asleep. That being said I also think that consulting with the nurse/doctor on the issue must be done. And of course the "Jewish rule" is an issue, but in the same respect that we "live by the Torah" not die, we should LIVE by our sages, not SLEEP by them. (lol)

(22) yossief, June 20, 2013 4:38 AM

If it's good enough for Rabbi Auerbach..........

I presume that you are referring to Reb SHlomo Zalmen Aurbach, since you said he was a sage. If it is good enough for him, I think I would emulate his example, unless the nurse said that the patient was in pain and should not be woken up.

(21) Lynne, June 19, 2013 8:27 PM

Do Good

I have to disagree with Selfish. It's not selfish to wake someone up (unless they are in critical condition) Because as Rabbi Salomon shared that man would have been full of regret if he had missed seeing his visitors. Which is more selfish, to wake someone up or to leave someone full of regret because their visitor didn't wake them up? The Mitzvah is to do Good in all things, visiting the sick etc. and what greater pleasure is there for a person who is confined than to have a visitor (it definitely relieves the boredom) to brighten their day. It doesn't rob them of their sleep, it robs them of their visitor. They can always catch up on their sleep a little later on.

(20) David, June 19, 2013 2:32 AM

Don't be selfish

Most people who wake up the sleeping person just want the recognition that they were there. The Mitzvah is to sit quietly and let the person get their rest, then leave even if the person never knew of the visit. To assume that the person is bored is making an excuse for your own good.

(19) Brian A.Donnelly, June 18, 2013 11:08 PM

I see your point.

I could not help but reflect on the parallel dilemma of physical/spiritual stupor and wonder if we should not adopt the same well intentioned resolve to wake people from their spiritual slumber when G-d grants us this opportunity ? Yes, I believe that our intervention of reaching out a helping and caring hand is very much in tune with G-d's heart for touching everyone - without exception.

(18) Anonymous, June 18, 2013 11:07 PM


I think it all depend on the patient circumstance and also the visitor's traveling distance. Nevertheless, I would be inclined to wait up to half an hour (enough time for the patient to wake up on his own). During that time I would pray for the patient and just be there perhaps reading a bbok. If within that time patient does not wake up, then I would write a note to leave to the patient, and leave with the intent to return on another day. The only way I would wake up the patient is, if I am visiting from a long distance place. When I visit a sick person, it is my practice to not rush, but to spend quality time with the person or elderly in the nursing home. I would not stay more than an hour if the person is up, unless the person needs me to be there for some specific reasons. My visits have always been appreciated because I use my discretion accordingly. Rabbi Salomon, thank you for your themes and the question posed at the end. They are always vitamins for the mind. Thanks again.

(17) rita, June 18, 2013 9:17 PM


My father was 98. I came for a visit and he was asleep. I didn't wake him. I should have. Both of us would have enjoyed the visit. Every minute together counts....particularly at that age.

(16) Chava Yelloz, June 18, 2013 8:43 PM

To wake the patient or let him sleep? That is the question.

I recently visited someone in a rehabilitation facility. He has a severe neurological disorder and is deteriorating. When I walked into the TV room where the patients were all watching a comedy, the person I came to see was asleep in a sitting position. I asked the floor nurse if he usually sleeps this time of day. She said, not at all, but he had a very difficult night and has dozed off. I tried to rouse him gently by speaking to him close to his ear. He did not budge.

Yes, I felt bad that I missed the interaction with this gentleman, but the bottom line is, it's not about me. If he was simply bored and dozing, I would have made a greater effort to wake him. Best thing is always to consult with hospital/ caregivers, of course. But, if the patient is nodding off from boredom, I would definitely wake them.

Good subject to question!!!

(15) Anonymous, June 18, 2013 6:36 PM

Why not ask the patient

How about a call ahead to ask the patient what their preference is. "If you're sleeping when I arrive shoudl I wake you." Or if its not possible to ask the patient, ask their family members. Since R'Aurbach was a posek and could poskin, we can't assume that what he did would be correct always. Without information to the contrary, I think we have to follow basic halachah that it is forbidden to wake a sleeping person.

(14) Dick Dennis, June 18, 2013 5:48 PM

I guess it depends

When a rabbi gently rubs my arm to slowly wake me up, it's the same as if my wife wakes me up from taking a nap. It feels like love. So it really depends on who is the visitor, doesn't it? The visitor should know if he/she is entitled to wake me up.

(13) Yehudis, June 18, 2013 4:13 PM

It really does depend

My late mother would fall asleep if no one was there to talk with her. My sister put a note on her door to please wake her if a visitor found her sleeping. Her condition didn't require that she rest, and she loved having the company.

(12) Margo Grace, June 18, 2013 3:56 PM

Ask advise

I would probably talk to the nurses to find out their opinion of the state of the patient; are they sleeping from exhaustion or not. If they are not in need of sleep but just drifting cause there is nothing else to do then I think waking them in a gentle way, and letting them know that there is someone who cares enough to visit would be of paramount importance. If they are sleeping from need I would sit with them, if it was allowed, for as long as I could, just to share my energy and silent prayers with them.

(11) Brahm Zuckerman, June 18, 2013 2:59 PM

I agree!

I would wake the patient too. If I were in the Hospital and someone came to visit I would want to be woken up.

(10) Anonymous, June 18, 2013 2:27 PM

I love this. Am I robbing the patient - or am I helping the patient? Thank you for drawing out the heart of the issue.

(9) Elisheva, June 18, 2013 2:25 PM

Every case is different

I have been the patient and I have been the visitor. One cannot issue a generalized recommendation, as each case is different. The visitor has to decide on the spot what the right call is. As a patient, while feeling poorly, it was a comfort to know that someone was sitting there and reading while I slept and ii didn't have to feel like entertaining them. Another time, when some dear friends came and left, I felt badly that I missed them. They told my husband that I looked exhausted and was asleep, and they couldn't bear to wake me. So it is a very personalized call, depends on the patient, how sick they are, and who the visitor is.

(8) Lisa, June 18, 2013 2:17 PM

We are all not Rav Auerbach

Honestly it depends who it is.....when I gave birth & was in the hospital for a week I would have loved to have been woken up by my real friends!! So I think we all know what level a friend we are to the sick patient....if we are just acquaintances then just leave a note ( & a snack!!) & it'll be much appreciated!

(7) Dina, June 18, 2013 2:06 PM

ask the doctor or nurse

Maybe the patient has just been given a strong pain killer (which put him to sleep ) but it has not yet started to control the pain, and he will be in agony if he is awakened at that time. So your best bet is to ask the nurse.

(6) EMS, June 18, 2013 3:53 AM

Bring a book!

When I go to visit someone in the hospital, I bring a book with me. If that person is sleeping, I pull up a chair, find a place to prop my feet, and read until the person opens their eyes. Usually it doesn't take too long- most people, unless they are under the influence of "knock-you-out" meds seem to doze in hospitals as opposed to actual sleep. Dozing patients can sense when they aren't alone anymore.

(5) sara, June 17, 2013 6:22 PM

this happened to me!

I was in the hospital after giving birth & a friend called & asked if she could visit me in 1/2 hr. I of course said yes (I was very bored) & a while later woke up to find a small food package on my night stand. She had come, seen I was asleep, put the food down & left. To this day & say that she did exactly the right thing! BUT as in the case with Rav Auerbach if I would've been extremely disappointed, then I would've wanted her to wake me.

(4) ross, June 17, 2013 1:33 PM

Wake him up!

Yes! absolutely! If I were Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach, I would wake him up, too!
But if I'm just me...well, he might not miss me as much as a big rabbi, so forget it.
Therefore we see that it depends on who I am at the time.

(3) sharona, June 17, 2013 4:12 AM

I think it depends on the patients. Some might not mind waking up, and some might want to sleep. If you know the person and that they want to sleep or be woken up, then you know what to do. If you don't know the person, that's harder to tell what they want

(2) Sarah Rivka :), June 17, 2013 2:36 AM

It depends....

...Why is the person sleeping? If it's boredom, wake them up; if their condition requires them to sleep a lot to keep up/improve their strength, let them sleep. Also it depends how close you are to the person.

(1) SusanE, June 17, 2013 1:03 AM

It really depends on if they want wakened. Ask them when you phone.

When a person is in bed, whether ill at hospital or elderly in a nursing home, they are at the mercy of who walks in the door of their room. A person in hospital isn't having a social occassion. They are there because they are a patient of surgery, tests or illness. If I don't see them socially on a regular week when they are not in hospital, I wouldn't go to visit them when are. If the curtain is pulled, I would not even enter the room. The best thing to do is phone earlier on that day and ask if they would like a visit. Problem solved and they are expecting you. Same in a nursing home. I wouldn't just drop by. Phone ahead.

Rachel, June 18, 2013 9:36 PM

Not everyone has a phone

Some people don't have a phone and some aren't able to speak on the phone.

SusanE, June 19, 2013 11:26 PM


Phone the floor nurse, phone a family member.


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