To describe the sleep characteristics of family caregivers of individuals with a primary malignant brain tumor (PMBT). Cross-sectional, correlational design using baseline data from a longitudinal study. Neuro-oncology and neurosurgery clinics at an urban tertiary medical center in the United States. 133 family caregivers recruited one to two months following diagnosis of family member's PMBT. Subjective and objective measures of sleep were obtained via self-report and the use of accelerometers (three nights). Sleep characteristics including sleep latency, total sleep time, wake after sleep onset, number of naps, number of arousals, sleep-wake cycle, and sleep quality. Sleep latency in caregivers was, on average, 35 minutes (SD = 34.5)-more than twice as long as the norm of 15 minutes (t) = 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 = -8, p < 0.01), and were awake in the night 15% of the time, significantly more than the norm of 10% (t = 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. 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. Nurses need to assess sleep in caregivers of individuals with PMBT and implement interventions to improve sleep. 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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