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Sleep, if you can
  1. Helen Leonard
  1. Correspondence to Dr Helen Leonard, Department of Paediatrics, Great North Children’s Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK; Helen.Leonard{at}

Statistics from

Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care …

Macbeth Act II Scene II

In their article on sleep disturbance, Keilty and colleagues1 highlight the issues around the amount of sleep achieved in family caregivers of children dependent on medical technology, such as home ventilation, oxygen saturation monitors and enteral feeding devices. Rather than relying solely on retrospective parental reporting by tired parents, they elegantly measure the amount of sleep achieved over a short time window in the lives of the families studied. They also describe the effects of sleep deprivation on the families’ quality of life.

While the untoward effects of sleep deprivation may be very familiar to many readers used to working weeks of night shifts or on call rotas, there is a difference between working long hours and caring for a disabled child. Even with intense work rotas, there is always an end point; holidays, weekends, day shifts, when freedom from calls and normality will return for a few days at least, and much needed rest is in sight.

The chronicity of sleep deprivation due to caring for disabled child, which for many families goes on relentlessly for months and years, is almost impossible to capture with research …

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