Aim: Sleep is essential for children's physical and mental recovery and it is indispensable for their growth, for endocrine and for immune function, and for the development of cognitive behavioral skills. The purpose of this study is to describe the impact of hospitalization on the sleep patterns of newborns, infants and toddlers, as well as mothers' perceptions of any changes in their children's sleep patterns.
Methods: This was a single-centre cross-sectional study. The study included children aged up to 2 years who had been hospitalized for more than two days, selected by accidental sampling. Data were collected using an anonymous questionnaire with open and closed questions administered to mothers.
Results: Two hundred and one children aged on average 11.2 months (SD 10.3) were enrolled in the study. The percentage of children who at home used to sleep less than 5 hours a night increased by 4.7% in hospital, while the percentage of children sleeping 9 to 11 hours at home decreased by 5.9% in hospital. In hospital mothers put their children to bed later than at home. Indeed, the number of individuals going to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. decreased by 9.8% in hospital, while the number of children going to bed between 10 and 11 p.m. increased by 10.1%. The number of children who had 2 to 4 awakenings per night increased by 13.9% and the number of those who had 4 to 6 nocturnal awakenings increased by 4.8%; 50.5% of mothers reported that their children's sleep was interrupted by nurses to provide care. Mothers generally perceived their children's sleep as adequate, even if they noticed that their children were more restless and irritable. Mothers with only one child reported that they had more difficulty helping their children fall asleep (P=0.02).
Conclusion: The study highlights the need to review the routine in paediatric wards on the basis of the sleep needs of children. Further studies are needed to estimate the effectiveness of the specific measures suggested by mothers.