• pain;
  • respiration;
  • sleep


Sleep is considered an important time of healing and restoration during illness. The primary aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of self-reported sleep disturbance in children admitted to a tertiary children's hospital with a variety of medical diagnoses.


Parents of children admitted to the hospital, aged between 1 and 18 years, were asked to complete a sleep diary during one night of their child's hospital stay. Children older than 12 years were asked to complete a diary independently. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise the data.


Overall, 107 children were surveyed for one hospital inpatient night. The overall prevalence of poor sleep was 52.3%. The wide age range and variety of diagnosis limited further detailed analysis of specific causes of this problem. Poor sleep prior to admission was the strongest predictor of poor sleep in hospital suggesting that these children already had an underlying sleep problem. Unprompted awakenings were predominantly due to toileting (17.8%) or were spontaneous (17.8%). Factors specific to the hospital environment that woke children were nursing cares (25.2%), alarms (12.1%) and pain (12.1%).


Children admitted to hospital have a higher prevalence of poor sleep compared with healthy children in the community. Children were woken frequently by both external noise and attention provided by hospital staff. Education of hospital staff about the importance of sleep for children and factors that affect children's sleep may reduce the negative impact of hospitalisation on children's sleep.