Roughly half of patients with cancer have symptoms of insomnia, and many may have sleep problems that linger for at least a year, a small study suggests, according to Reuters.
Up to 10 percent of adults in the developed world suffer from chronic insomnia, and cancer patients are particularly prone to it, researchers note in Sleep Medicine. Even though sleep disorders have been tied to worse outcomes for cancer patients, research to date on hasn’t offered a clear picture of what circumstances might make sleep problems more likely in people being treated for tumors.
For the current study, researchers examined data on 405 cancer patients in Germany who were 59 years old on average and completed two assessments of insomnia severity: once when they joined the study and again twelve months later.
The most common malignancies were breast cancer, tumors of the prostate or testicles, and colorectal cancer.
Most patients - 83 percent - were being treated for a first-time cancer. The rest of them had a relapses or secondary tumors in a different location than the original cancer.
At the start of the study, 49 percent of the patients had insomnia symptoms, and 13 percent had severe enough sleep problems to meet the clinical definition of insomnia, the study found.
After a year, 64 percent of the patients who started out with insomnia were still suffering from symptoms.
“This matters for patients because they may assume that their insomnia will disappear over time, as their cancer treatment concludes or their mood improves,” said Eric Zhou of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
“Unfortunately, this is often not the case,” Zhou, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.
By the end of the year-long study, 53 percent of women and 39 percent of men had insomnia symptoms.