Sleep has a significant impact on the daily functioning of children and their parents. The purpose of this study was to describe and gain an understanding of the sleep characteristics of children receiving treatment for cancer and their caregivers using a mixed methods concurrent triangulation design.
Data were collected from questionnaires completed by 35 caregivers of children receiving treatment for cancer and compared to similar data from 64 caregivers of healthy children.
There was considerable variability in the sleep characteristics of the children receiving treatment for cancer as reported by their caregivers. However, as a group, the magnitude of their sleep problems, particularly among the adolescents, was significantly greater than that of the comparison group and had the potential to impact negatively on their participation in everyday life. They had poorer sleep efficiency. Many impairments, particularly pain, nightmares, and symptoms associated with steroid administration, impacted their sleep. Their caregivers also experienced an increased prevalence of sleep issues, which impacted their daytime functioning. Suggestions to prevent and treat the sleep issues of children receiving treatment for cancer focused on practicing good sleep habits, ensuring a safe, secure, and comfortable sleep environment, and using non‐pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical interventions to address impairments interfering with sleep. Caregivers noted that it was important to take care of themselves by getting sufficient sleep and accepting help from others.
Sleep issues are prevalent in families of children receiving treatment for cancer and should be assessed routinely and addressed. Pediatr Blood Cancer 2011;56:638–645. © 2010 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.