Parents' Experience of Their Sleep and Rest When Admitted to Hospital with Their Ill Child: A Qualitative Study

Compr Child Adolesc Nurs. 2019 Dec;42(4):265-279. doi: 10.1080/24694193.2018.1528310. Epub 2018 Nov 2.


The aim of this study was to explore parents' experiences of sleep and rest while admitted to hospital together with their ill child. When a child is hospitalized, it can be a traumatic experience for the entire family. Adaptation to the new situation and new parental responsibilities is necessary. Hospitalized children demand more supervision and care, making sleep disturbance a common challenge among these parents. A qualitative exploratory interview study was conducted using semi-structured individual or couple interviews with 17 parents (12 mothers and five fathers) admitted together with their ill child for shorter or longer periods at pediatric wards at a university hospital in Sweden. Interviews were analyzed with content analysis. Sufficient amount of sleep and rest was described as vital for parental functioning. The main theme Factors influencing sleep and rest emerged with three subthemes. Environmental factors describe experiences such as disturbing sounds and uncomfortable beds. Interpersonal factors describe how supportive relations with spouses, relatives, nurses, and doctors were experienced as strengthening the parental confidence and helping parents to relax. Parents wanted to participate in the care but appreciated help from the nurses when they needed rest or support. The last subtheme, Organizational factors, describe how continuous information about the child's care and prognosis was experienced as the most important factor to feel secure and calm. Parents expressed that a possibility to buy lunch and dinner at the ward would greatly relieve parents' stress and help them rest. Parents in this study were grateful that they were allowed to stay by their child's side, but pointed out improvement opportunities. Single rooms with comfortable beds for the parents were in high demand to promote relaxation and sleep. Continuous, adjusted, information was seen as important. All hospitalized children have the right to partake in their own treatment and care, and they need a parent at their side. By optimizing parents' sleep and rest in the hospital, a more positive experience of the hospitalization can be achieved for the entire family.

Keywords: Child; experiences; hospital; interviews; parents; sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Hospitalized / psychology*
  • Child, Hospitalized / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / trends*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Social Support
  • Sweden