Sleeping pods promote better sleep

April 25, 2019
Research shows RMHC Toronto innovation helps parents.
Woman sleeping on recliner
Finding time and a place to sleep when you are the parent of a seriously ill child in the hospital is often challenging.

It’s one of the reasons Ronald McDonald House Charities Toronto opened a Ronald McDonald Family Room at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in 2014.

The Family Room includes a rest and respite area with seven aviation-inspired sleep pods to give family caregivers access to sleeping accommodations near their children’s bedside and right next to the home-like environment of the Family Room lounge and kitchenette area.

The sleeping pods were an innovation created by RMHC Toronto and allowed for the construction of more than twice as many sleep accommodations for family caregivers as previous RMHC Family Room designs using the same square footage.

And while we have always believed these sleeping pod accommodations make a difference for family members, a new study has now confirmed their helpfulness. 

The study was conducted by researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto, in partnership with RMHC Toronto and RMHC Canada and the SickKids Mary Jo Haddad Innovation Fund.

Ninety-seven family caregivers at SickKids were studied between March 2017 and July 2018. Each was asked to wear a wristwatch-like device over four days and five nights to track their sleep and to keep a written sleep diary. After the five nights, the caregivers were administered a series of tests to determine their levels of sleepiness, fatigue and stress. Fourteen family members also participated in interviews with the researchers.

The study found that caregivers got their best sleep in the Ronald McDonald Family Room sleeping pods, if they were sleeping away from home, and that the effects of that sleep contributed to feeling less tired during the day.

Detailed study findings are currently being prepared by the researchers for submission to research journals and will be widely shared with parents, partners and the health care community.

“We are committed to keeping families of seriously ill children together and to do so, RMHC Toronto Family Room at SickKids never closes. We know families cope better when they stay close,” says Sally Ginter, CEO, RMHC Toronto.

“Through our welcoming Family Room and access to our innovative sleeping pods, we help caregivers get the quality of sleep they need to best help them manage their challenging circumstances. We are delighted this research provides further evidence of the value of our mission and the positive impact we have on families.” 

“The study suggests that sleeping pods promote a positive patient experience and support family caregivers to achieve good sleep outcomes when a child is seriously ill and hospitalized. It also identifies several opportunities to promote child and family-centred care through enhanced access to in-hospital sleep spaces and improved navigation and communication about sleep needs and accommodations for caregivers,” say study co-leads Dr. Krista Keilty and Dr. Robyn Stremler of SickKids and the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.

“We hope our study can inform future Family Room design, clinical practice and research towards the development of more designated caregiver sleep spaces in or adjacent to patient rooms.”

More than 14 co-investigators and collaborators also supported the work.