Parental sleep experiences on the pediatric oncology ward

Support Care Cancer. 2013 Feb;21(2):557-64. doi: 10.1007/s00520-012-1547-z. Epub 2012 Aug 5.


Purpose: Parents of pediatric oncology patients are encouraged to sleep on the ward with their child to provide additional care throughout the night. The purpose of this study was to provide the first prevalence estimates of self-reported sleep quantity and quality among parents accommodated on the pediatric oncology ward, compared to parents of age-matched controls.

Methods: Parents of children receiving in-patient cancer treatment and parents of healthy, age-matched children completed a self-report questionnaire, including validated measures of parental sleep and psychological distress, demographic, and clinical characteristics.

Results: In total, 114 parents participated (52 parents of children with cancer; 62 control parents; over all response rate 70 %). Parents on the pediatric oncology ward reported sleeping 5.7 h (SD = 1.8) on average, in comparison to control parents who reported sleeping 7.0 h at home (SD = 1.4; t = 4.3, p < 0.001). Parents reported waking an average of 4.6 times (SD = 0.3) per night on the ward, compared to control parents who reported 2.0 (SD = 0.2) nighttime awakenings (t = 7.69, p < 0.001). Parents of children with cancer were significantly more likely to report that they had slept "badly" (67.3 versus 21.0 %; χ(2) = 21.9, p < 0.001). Significant predictors of sleep duration included anxiety (p = 0.013) and caffeine consumption (p = 0.017). Parents who slept on the ward attributed poor sleep to feelings of anxiety, environmental noise, and child-related factors.

Conclusions: Parents who sleep on the pediatric oncology ward experience poor sleep outcomes, including inadequate duration and frequent interruptions. The detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on parents' ability to cope during this challenging time require further investigation and intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales
  • Oncology Service, Hospital*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / etiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / complications
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult