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An Exploration of Pediatric Sleep Health in a Special Population

Hartman, Amy Gore (2022) An Exploration of Pediatric Sleep Health in a Special Population. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Insufficient sleep is a pervasive problem for children and can impact growth and development. Emerging research suggests that a child’s sensory processing abilities, specifically sensory sensitivities, may influence their sleep health (Foitzik & Brown, 2018; Mazurek & Petroski, 2015). Within populations who seek out occupational therapy services, many children have sensory processing patterns that impact participation in daily life, however sleep is often overlooked. In this dissertation, we characterize sleep health for children with sensory sensitivities and examine pediatric occupational therapists’ perspectives regarding assessing and intervening in sleep concerns within their daily practice.
We use parent and child-reported subjective measures, daily sleep diaries, and movement-based actigraphy measures to thoroughly characterize multidimensional sleep health for children with and without sensory sensitivities. Our findings suggest a significant difference in subjective sleep health, by both parent and child report, and significant sleep onset delay for children with sensory sensitivities compared to peers. Measures of rest-activity rhythms and sleep variables using actigraphy were similar between groups, indicating that once a child with sensory sensitivities falls asleep, their sleep may not be different than children without sensory sensitivities.
In our qualitative descriptive study, we examined perspectives of 20 pediatric occupational therapists regarding addressing sleep concerns within routine care. Therapists said that sleep health was within their scope of practice, but often personal, family, setting specific, or external barriers impacted their abilities to address sleep in their practice. Therapists said they were not confident in their knowledge surrounding sleep concerns and highlighted several areas of supports and barriers they regularly experience.
This body of work lays a foundation for two lines of future research. First, we present novel characterization of multidimensional sleep health for children with sensory sensitivities compared to peers without sensory sensitivities. These findings can drive future studies examining neurological differences between these groups that may contribute to sleep and sensory processing within the brain. Second, we identified supports and barriers that impact a pediatric occupational therapists’ ability to intervene on sleep concerns. Future research can move forward to address barriers and expand upon supports to better equip occupational therapists to become sleep professionals.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Hartman, Amy Goreagh38@pitt.eduagh380000-0003-0737-8375
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBendixen, Roxanna Mbendixen@pitt.edubendixen0000-0002-7728-0624
Committee MemberSoehner, Adrianesoehneram2@upmc.eduams4860000-0003-3172-1815
Committee MemberAkcakaya, Muratakcakaya@pitt.eduakcakaya0000-0001-5094-1931
Committee MemberDeAlmeida, Dilharidrd7@pitt.edudrd70000-0001-5637-0172
Committee MemberBodison, Stefaniestefaniebodison@ufl.edu0000-0003-1412-1033
Date: 7 July 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 23 May 2022
Approval Date: 7 July 2022
Submission Date: 31 May 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 141
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences > Rehabilitation Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: sleep, sleep health, pediatrics, sensory processing, sensory sensitivities, occupational therapy, actigraphy
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2022 19:15
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2022 19:15


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