For people coping with cancer, sleep problems are an all-too-common complication that doesn’t get enough attention. Disruptions to sleep often occur during treatment and unfortunately can linger even after the cancer itself has been eliminated or brought under control. Two recent studies reveal just how prevalent sleep problems are for people with cancer.
In one study, researchers analyzed the sleep quality of 962 cancer patients. All were coping with a first-time diagnosis of the disease and had surgery scheduled as part of their treatment. The researchers assessed the cancer patients’ sleep using an insomnia diagnosis interview right before surgery. They repeated the sleep interview several times for the next 18 months. They found that disrupted sleep and insomnia were extremely common among these cancer patients during and after their treatment:
- Fifty-nine percent of patients had insomnia symptoms at the outset of the study.
- Twenty-eight percent were classified as having insomnia syndrome, a condition where insomnia is more severe and almost unshakable.
- Over the course of the 18-month study period, the patients’ disordered sleep did improve somewhat.
At the 18-month mark, 36% of patients still had insomnia symptoms. While an improvement, this is still higher than the general population.
Women seemed to fare worse than men when it came to sleep. The highest rates of insomnia symptoms were found in people with breast and gynecologic cancers, while the lowest rates were linked to prostate cancer. Among the patients with the most severe insomnia, those with insomnia syndrome, researchers found that these people were unlikely to see improvement to their sleep during the course of the 18 months.
For people coping with cancer, sleep problems are an all-too-common
complication that doesn’t get enough attention. Disruptions to
sleep often occur during treatment and unfortunately can linger
even after the cancer itself has been... More