Sleep problems are very significant among patients with cancer prior to undergoing radiotherapy, and the problems were found to be associated with progression of cancer, prior treatments (such as chemotherapy), and other psychosomatic symptoms caused by the disease (eg, anxiety), according to a study.

Published in European Journal of Oncology Nursing, the study conducted by researchers from the Hospital Inmaculada ONCOSUR-Granada hospital and the University of Granada (UGR) department of Personality, Assessment and Psychological Treatment involved the participation of 105 cancer patients who were evaluated in their first appointment at the Radiotherapeutic Oncology Service. Sleep disturbances were assessed by means of a questionnaire that the patients themselves filled out. Secondary variables were the impact of pain on sleep, anxiety, and fatigue.

The researchers analyzed the impact that cancer severity, history of treatment, and psychosomatic symptomatology (such as anxiety) have on sleep problems. The participants reported important levels of insomnia and hypersomnia. “Insomnia-related problems were significantly higher in patients with a more severe disease, which led to higher levels of hypnotic drug intake,” UGR researcher Escarlata López, lead author of this work, says in a release.

Moreover, prior chemotherapy was significantly associated with hypersomnia-related problems. Anxiety was significantly associated with both sleep-related problems (insomnia and hypersomnia).

In the light of these results, researchers warn that sleep problems within this context “must be explored and included in the patient’s clinical history in order to provide adequate guidelines to palliate said problems effects on the patient’s quality of life.”