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Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2014 Feb;15(2):e56-65. doi: 10.1097/01.pcc.0000436198.15337.15.

Sleep, sleepiness, and fatigue outcomes for parents of critically ill children.

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1Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. 2The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, ON, Canada. 3Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.



To describe sleep quantity, sleep patterns, fatigue, and sleepiness for parents of critically ill hospitalized children.


Prospective observational study.


Quaternary academic PICU.


One hundred eighteen parents of 91 children recruited during their child's PICU stay.




For 5 days and nights, parents wore an actigraph to determine objective sleep-wake times and reported sleep location, level of fatigue (Fatigue Visual Analogue Scale), and sleepiness (Stanford Sleepiness Scale). Mean amounts of nocturnal sleep were less than recommended for optimal health (398 min, fathers vs 422 min, mothers; p = 0.04). Parents woke frequently (7.8 wakes, fathers; 7.2 wakes, mothers) and spent over an hour awake at night (65 min, fathers; 60 min, mothers). On 130 nights (26%), parents slept less than 6 hours and 209 nights (44%) were evaluated as "worse" sleep than usual. Fifty-four parents (53%) experienced more than 30% difference in minutes of sleep between consecutive nights. Mean morning fatigue levels (41 mm, fathers vs 46 mm, mothers; p = 0.03) indicated clinically significant fatigue. Sleeping in a hotel, parent room, or residence was associated with 3.2 more wakes per night (95% CI, 0.61-5.78; p = 0.015) than sleeping in a hospital lounge or waiting room.


We performed a prospective observational study of 118 parents of critically ill children using objective measures of sleep and validated scales to assess fatigue and sleepiness. We found that more than a quarter of nights met criteria for acute sleep deprivation, there was considerable variability in the amount of nocturnal sleep that individual participants slept on different nights, and sleep was fragmented with a large portion of the night spent awake. Future research should focus on interventions that improve parents' ability to return to sleep upon awakening and maintain regular sleep-wake schedules.

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