Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 557–564 | Cite as

Parental sleep experiences on the pediatric oncology ward

  • Jordana K. McLoone
  • Claire E. Wakefield
  • Su Lynn Yoong
  • Richard J. Cohn
Original Article



Parents of pediatric oncology patients are encouraged to sleep on the ward with their child to provide additional care throughout the night. The purpose of this study was to provide the first prevalence estimates of self-reported sleep quantity and quality among parents accommodated on the pediatric oncology ward, compared to parents of age-matched controls.


Parents of children receiving in-patient cancer treatment and parents of healthy, age-matched children completed a self-report questionnaire, including validated measures of parental sleep and psychological distress, demographic, and clinical characteristics.


In total, 114 parents participated (52 parents of children with cancer; 62 control parents; over all response rate 70 %). Parents on the pediatric oncology ward reported sleeping 5.7 h (SD = 1.8) on average, in comparison to control parents who reported sleeping 7.0 h at home (SD = 1.4; t = 4.3, p < 0.001). Parents reported waking an average of 4.6 times (SD = 0.3) per night on the ward, compared to control parents who reported 2.0 (SD = 0.2) nighttime awakenings (t = 7.69, p < 0.001). Parents of children with cancer were significantly more likely to report that they had slept “badly” (67.3 versus 21.0 %; χ2 = 21.9, p < 0.001). Significant predictors of sleep duration included anxiety (p = 0.013) and caffeine consumption (p = 0.017). Parents who slept on the ward attributed poor sleep to feelings of anxiety, environmental noise, and child-related factors.


Parents who sleep on the pediatric oncology ward experience poor sleep outcomes, including inadequate duration and frequent interruptions. The detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on parents' ability to cope during this challenging time require further investigation and intervention.


Pediatric oncology Psychosocial Supportive care Parent Sleep 



We would like to acknowledge the valuable contributions of Lorraine Taylor, Nurse Unit Manager of Ward C1North, Sydney Children's Hospital (SCH); Liane Willis, Clinical Psychologist, at the Centre for Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders, SCH; and Susan Harmon (Nurse Unit Manager of the Outpatients Department, SCH).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no known affiliations with any organization that has a direct interest financial or otherwise in the subject of this manuscript which they consider to be relevant and important. The authors agree to provide all data for review upon request.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordana K. McLoone
    • 1
    • 2
  • Claire E. Wakefield
    • 1
    • 2
  • Su Lynn Yoong
    • 2
  • Richard J. Cohn
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Women’s and Children’s HealthUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Children’s Cancer and Blood DisordersSydney Children’s HospitalRandwickAustralia

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