Understanding how best to measure sleep outcomes in parents of children with a chronic or life-limiting condition / Health and Aging

Summary

Caregivers of children with medical complexity often report sleep problems. The risks of failing to act to improve parent sleep mean that parents struggle to maintain their wider health, their household and the ongoing care of their child. However, parents also report current NHS guidance and intervention for this sleep disturbance to be limited in its capacity to improve their sleep because of how they see their responsibilities to care for their child impacting on their ability to engage fully with these recommendations. Our previous work with parents, has established an urgent need to develop more tailored solutions to this problem.
This PhD will form part of a wider programme of research to develop and evaluate future interventions to improve sleep for this group of parents. It will involve working between the School of Psychology and the School of Computing at Ulster University to determine how best to objectively and subjectively measure sleep outcomes amongst a group of parents of children with medically complex conditions. The supervisory team for this PhD involves both the School of Psychology and the School of Computing and the student will have opportunities to learn about research from both schools.
The objectives of the PhD are:
1. To use a previously developed framework for appraising sensor technology to determine the most appropriate sleep sensor(s) for use with parents of children with medical complexity.
2. Pilot sleep data collection amongst a group of parents of children with medical complexity using self-report and biometric measures.
3. Develop a model of how mental health and sleep function can be measured in tandem amongst a group of parents of children with medical complexity.
It is anticipated that the project will use both qualitative and quantitative research methods and training will be provided to the successful candidate in these methods.
Please note: Applications for more than one PhD studentship are welcome, however if you apply for more than one PhD project within Psychology, your first application on the system will be deemed your first-choice preference and further applications will be ordered based on the sequential time of submission. If you are successfully shortlisted, you will be interviewed only on your first-choice application and ranked accordingly. Those ranked highest will be offered a PhD studentship. In the situation where you are ranked highly and your first-choice project is already allocated to someone who was ranked higher than you, you may be offered your 2nd or 3rd choice project depending on the availability of this project.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • A demonstrable interest in the research area associated with the studentship
  • Evidence of academic writing skills (a short sample of academic written work of the applicant's choosing (Max 3 pages, A4, font 11))

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Research project completion within taught Masters degree or MRES
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £18,000 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £8,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £18,000 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living

Recommended reading

[1] Caulfield B, Reginatto B, Slevin P. Not all sensors are created equal: a framework for evaluating human performance measurement technologies. NPJ Digital Medicine 2019;2:1-8.

[2] Cohn LN, Pechlivanoglou P, Lee Y, Mahant S, Orkin J, Marson A, Cohen E. Health outcomes of parents of children with chronic illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Pediatr 2020;218:166-177. e2.

[3] Esbensen AJ, Schworer EK, Hoffman EK, Wiley S. Child Sleep Linked to Child and Family Functioning in Children with Down Syndrome. Brain Sciences 2021;11:1170.

[4] Hartley J, Bluebond-Langner M, Candy B, Downie J, Henderson EM. The Physical Health of Caregivers of Children With Life-Limiting Conditions: A Systematic Review. Pediatrics 2021;148:e2020014423.

[5] Henderson EM, Hartley J, Candy B, Downie J, Shafran R, Lakhanpaul M, Comac M, Craig F, Bluebond-Langner M. Understanding the wellbeing of parental caregivers of children with life-limiting conditions: findings from a mixed methods scoping study. Palliat Med 2020;34.

[6] Jansson-Fröjmark M, Evander J, Alfonsson S. Are sleep hygiene practices related to the incidence, persistence and remission of insomnia? Findings from a prospective community study. J Behav Med 2019;42:128-138.

[7] Marthinsen GN, Helseth S, Fegran L. Sleep and its relationship to health in parents of preterm infants: a scoping review. BMC pediatrics 2018;18:1-14.

[8] McCrae CS, Chan WS, Curtis AF, Deroche CB, Munoz M, Takamatsu S, Muckerman JE, Takahashi N, McCann D, McGovney K. Cognitive behavioral treatment of insomnia in school‐aged children with autism spectrum disorder: A pilot feasibility study. Autism Research 2020;13:167-176.

[9] McLoone JK, Wakefield CE, Yoong SL, Cohn RJ. Parental sleep experiences on the pediatric oncology ward. Supportive care in cancer 2013;21:557-564.

[10] McMurray J, Widger K, Stephenson AL, Stremler R. Actigraphic and patient and family reported sleep outcomes in children and youth with cystic fibrosis: A systematic review. Journal of Cystic Fibrosis 2021.

[11] McQuillan ME, Bates JE, Staples AD, Deater-Deckard K. Maternal stress, sleep, and parenting. Journal of Family Psychology 2019;33:349.

[12] Nancy King M. Sleep in mother and child dyads during treatment for pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In: Anonymous Oncology Nursing Forum, vol. 41: Oncology Nursing Society, 2014. pp. 599.

[13] Staples AD, Bates JE, Petersen IT, McQuillan ME, Hoyniak C. Measuring sleep in young children and their mothers: Identifying actigraphic sleep composites. International journal of behavioral development 2019;43:278-285.

[14] Thomas NW, Lindauer A, Kaye J. EVALUATE-AD and Tele-STAR: novel methodologies for assessment of caregiver burden in a telehealth caregiver intervention–a case study. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2019;47:176-184.

[15] Tsai S, Lee W, Lee C, Jeng S, Weng W. Sleep in mothers of children with epilepsy and its relation to their children's sleep. Res Nurs Health 2020;43:168-175.

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 6 February 2023
04:00PM

Interview Date
14 to 16 March 2023

Preferred student start date
18 September 2023

Applying

Apply Online  

Contact supervisor

Dr Gavin Breslin

Other supervisors

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