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Attention to sleep problems among parents of children with cancer needed 

More than one third of the parents of children with cancer still have sleep problems years after the diagnosis. PhD student Niki Rensen discovered that sleep problems in children and parents are an important factor for the quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

Niki Rensen did research on sleep problems, stress and quality of life of parents of children with cancer. She sent a questionnaire to two large groups of parents, where one group was also followed over time. Her dissertation shows that more than one third of the parents of children with cancer still have sleep problems years after the diagnosis. These parents also often experience a lot of stress and together this has a strong negative effect on their quality of life. Niki says: ‘We know that the well-being of parents is strongly linked to that of their children. Parents need to be rested and emotionally available in order to support their child as best as possible. Therefore, it is imperative that we pay attention to parents both during and after treatment and offer timely and adequate help and interventions where needed, including sleep. Some parents are extra vulnerable, for example parents who experience little social support or problems in parenting and chronically ill parents. We need to monitor this group extra closely.'

Taking care of yourself
Sleep problems often arise early after diagnosis and can then become chronic. Stress and certain sleep habits (such as drinking a lot of coffee during the day to stay awake, or always having the child sleep in the parents' bed) can contribute to or perpetuate sleep problems. If the parent sleeps badly, this also has negative effects on the child. Niki Rensen: 'So, no matter how difficult it is with a seriously ill child, my advice to parents would be: try to take the best possible care of yourself, then you can also be there for your child optimally.’