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Intensive Crit Care Nurs. 2011 Feb;27(1):37-45. doi: 10.1016/j.iccn.2010.11.001. Epub 2010 Dec 15.

Factors influencing sleep for parents of critically ill hospitalised children: a qualitative analysis.

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Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


The aim of this study was to describe factors affecting the sleep of parents of critically ill children and to determine strategies used to improve their sleep. One hundred and eighteen parents of 91 children recruited during their child's paediatric intensive care unit stay responded in writing to open-ended questions assessing their experiences with sleep and eliciting ideas for strategies to promote sleep to be used by parents and provided by hospital staff. Patterns and concepts were coded and organised into themes using a qualitative descriptive approach. Seven themes emerged related to influences on and strategies to improve sleep: (1) the child's condition; (2) being at the bedside or not; (3) difficult thoughts and feelings; (4) changes to usual sleep; (5) caring for self and family; (6) the hospital environment and (7) access to sleep locations. Parents described multiple, often competing, demands that affected their ability to achieve sleep, regardless of location. Many more factors that influenced sleep were described than strategies to improve sleep, highlighting the need for nurses to explore with parents the unique barriers and facilitators to sleep they encounter and to develop and rigorously test interventions to improve sleep.

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