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Nighttime Sleep Disruptions, the Hospital Care Environment, and Symptoms in Elementary School-Age Children With Cancer

Lauri A. Linder
Becky J. Christian
ONF 2012, 39(6), 553-561 DOI: 10.1188/12.ONF.553-561

Purpose/Objectives: To describe nighttime sleep-wake patterns during a 12-hour night shift among school-age children with cancer receiving inpatient chemotherapy and relationships among nighttime sleep, environmental stimuli, medication doses, and symptoms during that shift.

Design: Exploratory, descriptive, multiple-case study.

Setting: Inpatient pediatric oncology unit at a tertiary pediatric hospital in the western United States.

Sample: 15 elementary school-age children with cancer receiving inpatient chemotherapy.

Methods: Wrist actigraphs measured sleep-wake patterns. Data loggers and sound pressure level meters measured bedside light, temperature, and sound levels. Medication doses and occurrences of pain, nausea, and vomiting were identified through chart review.

Main Research Variables: Minutes of sleep.

Findings: Sleep varied based on time of night (F = 56.27, p < 0.01), with sleep onset delayed past 10 pm. A basic mixed linear model identified significant fixed effects for sound (F = 50.87, p < 0.01) and light (F = 7.04, p < 0.01) on minutes of sleep. A backward regression model including sound, light, medication doses, pain, and nausea accounted for about 57% of the variance in sleep minutes (F = 62.85, p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Sleep was marked by frequent awakenings, limiting children's ability to experience full sleep cycles. Multiple factors—in particular, excessive sound levels—compromise sleep quantity and quality throughout the night.

Implications for Nursing: Efforts to develop and test individualized and system-based interventions to modify the hospital care environment to promote nighttime sleep are needed. Oncology nurses have the opportunity to influence the care environment at an individual level and to influence unit-based practices to promote a healthy nighttime sleep environment.

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