Sleep and psychological characteristics of children with cancers and type 1 diabetes and their caregivers

Sleep Med. 2023 Mar:103:69-77. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2023.01.014. Epub 2023 Jan 30.


Objectives: Children with chronic illnesses and their parents are more at risk to develop sleep problems, which are linked to worse psychological and physical well-being. This study aimed to assess sleep patterns and their connections with psychological outcomes in children with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and cancer and their caregivers, compared to a control sample. In addition, we explored the associations between caregiver and child's sleep quality across the three groups.

Methods: We enrolled 56 children with T1D, 33 children with cancer, and 61 healthy children between 7 and 15, and their respective caregivers. Caregivers filled out an ad-hoc survey assessing their sleep disturbances, parenting stress, general well-being, anxiety, and their children's sleep patterns and psychological adjustments.

Results: Children with cancer showed lower sleep quality than the other groups. Moreover, worse psychological adjustment was associated with greater sleep disturbances in both clinical groups. As for caregivers, the cancer group reported the worst sleep quality and greater anxiety compared to the other samples. Greater anxiety was also linked to worse sleep quality. Furthermore, greater sleep problems in children were associated with poorer caregivers' sleep quality in the whole sample and the T1D group.

Conclusions: A better understanding of sleep patterns and problems for chronically ill children and their parents is fundamental to provide adequate care for these vulnerable populations. Furthermore, an illness-specific approach may better inform and guide the practitioners in clinical practice.

Keywords: Caregivers; Parental distress; Pediatric cancers; Pediatric diabetes; Sleep disturbances.

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1* / complications
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Parents
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders*
  • Sleep Quality
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological