Managing Sleep Problems

“Something that I learnt was that I can deal with anything as long as I’ve slept! I think parents should make sure they ask for help with their sleep and make sure that they get that help if they’re not getting enough sleep. Because they can’t help their child, and they’re going to be ratty with the other siblings, if they’re not getting enough sleep. And potentially even dangerous if they’re having to do long drives back and forward to the hospital. And you can’t sleep in the hospital either.”

It is common for parents (and children) to have trouble sleeping after experiencing a traumatic event. This might be something that you experienced, or continue to experience. Sleep can be interrupted by the hospital environment but also because of your thoughts, feelings, and things that you are doing. It is really important that you get enough sleep so that you can function as well as you can. This section provides information about different ways sleep can be improved.

In the hospital

“We could hear children crying out in the night and we used to get the nurses in and out to check on her. So, you don’t get a proper night’s sleep. You don’t really sleep properly during the day. The hospital is a very stressful place to be in.”

It can be extremely difficult to sleep in the hospital environment. Some of the parents we spoke to provided some tips that might help you to get more rest.

  • Take naps when you can
  • Talk to the staff and see if they can help

“Sleeping in hospital is really hard so nap when you can, and try and ask the nurses about when they can do their obs because that’s really really disruptive.”

  • Make sure you stay fed and hydrated

“I felt hungry a lot of the time. I was allowed to eat on the ward but I didn’t go and eat until the children had all had things. And then I’d only have what was left over so I didn’t really feel like I was eating particularly well. I was waking up because I was hungry.”

At home

Not everyone is treated in hospital. Some children are discharged from hospital quickly and others are only ever treated as outpatients. However, there are many things that can mean that parents and children have difficulty sleeping after a traumatic event, including stress and anxious thoughts, nightmares/flashbacks, and your sleeping environment.