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Open Access Article

Sleep Characteristics of Family Caregivers of Individuals With a Primary Malignant Brain Tumor

Jean D. Pawl
Shih-Yu Lee
Patricia C. Clark
Paula R. Sherwood
ONF 2013, 40(2), 171-179 DOI: 10.1188/13.ONF.171-179

Purpose/Objectives: To describe the sleep characteristics of family caregivers of individuals with a primary malignant brain tumor (PMBT).

Design: Cross-sectional, correlational design using baseline data from a longitudinal study.

Setting: Neuro-oncology and neurosurgery clinics at an urban tertiary medical center in the United States.

Sample: 133 family caregivers recruited one to two months following diagnosis of family member's PMBT.

Methods: Subjective and objective measures of sleep were obtained via self-report and the use of accelerometers (three nights).

Main Research Variables: Sleep characteristics including sleep latency, total sleep time, wake after sleep onset, number of naps, number of arousals, sleep-wake cycle, and sleep quality.

Findings: Sleep latency in caregivers was, on average, 35 minutes (SD = 34.5)—more than twice as long as the norm of 15 minutes (t[113]) = 6.18, p < 0.01). Caregivers averaged a total sleep time of 5 hours and 57 minutes (SD = 84.6), significantly less than the recommended 7 hours (t[113] = -8, p < 0.01), and were awake in the night 15% of the time, significantly more than the norm of 10% (t[111] = 5.84, p < 0.01). Caregivers aroused an average of 8.3 times during nocturnal sleep (SD = 3.5, range = 2-21), with about 32% reporting poor or very poor sleep quality.

Conclusions: Caregivers experienced sleep impairments that placed them at risk for poor mental and physical health, and may compromise their ability to continue in the caregiving role.

Implications for Nursing: Nurses need to assess sleep in caregivers of individuals with PMBT and implement interventions to improve sleep.

Knowledge Translation: Sleep deprivation is common in family caregivers during the early stages of care for individuals with a PMBT. A single-item sleep quality question could be an easy but valuable tool in assessing sleep disturbances in family caregivers of individuals with a PMBT. The health trajectory of family caregivers warrants further longitudinal study, in addition to the examination of the bidirectional relationship of health status of care recipients and their family caregiver.

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