Sleep in parents of sick children

Proper sleep is vital to the experience of health and wellbeing. Sleep disturbances, on the other hand, increase the risk of experiencing stress and related symptoms.

Mamma sover bredvid sitt barn som hon håller i handen. / A mother sleeps next to her baby. She holds the baby's hand.Photo credit: DE GIUSEPPE FRANCESCO

Elevated levels of cortisol affect the area around the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, manifesting in cognitive and emotional disorders that interfere with memory, leaning, concentration and mood. Stress increases the likelihood of making unwise decisions and behaving irrationally. 

Parents of healthy children often experience disturbed sleep, which is normally viewed as a natural element of family life. Sick children require extra care, assistance and support from their parents. They frequently need supervision around the clock. Their sleep is more troubled or they require night-time feeding, medication or assistance going to the bathroom, whether at home or in hospital. 

Parents are best positioned to provide this kind of care and supervision. In other words, being the parent of a sick child is associated with special demands. Such parents are exposed to more stress factors, which come one after the other and affect their ability to recover. As a result of their greater vulnerability to stress and sleeping disorders, their mood, cognition and capacity to make wise decisions are sacrificed, compromising their prospects of providing children with proper care, assistance and support. 

One challenge faced by paediatric care is to offer evidence-based support for these parents and improve their chances of dealing with anxiety, stress and lack of sleep.

The overall purpose of this study is to examine and describe sleep patterns in parents of sick children.

Method: Prospective, descriptive, comparative study based on both quantitative and qualitative data

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