Use of CBT for Insomnia in Cancer Patients

CBT studyIndividuals with cancer are disproportionately affected by sleep disturbance and insomnia relative to the general population. These problems can be a consequence of the psychological, behavioral, and physical effects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Insomnia often persists for years and, when combined with already high levels of cancer-related distress, may place cancer survivors at a higher risk of future physical and mental health problems and poorer quality of life. The recommended first-line treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a non-pharmacological treatment that incorporates cognitive and behavior-change techniques and targets dysfunctional attitudes, beliefs, and habits involving sleep. This article presents a comprehensive review of the literature examining the efficacy of CBT-I on sleep and psychological outcomes in cancer patients and survivors. The search revealed 12 studies (four uncontrolled, eight controlled) that evaluated the effects of CBT-I in cancer patients or survivors. Results suggest that CBT-I is associated with statistically and clinically significant improvements in subjective sleep outcomes in patients with cancer. CBT-I may also improve mood, fatigue, and overall quality of life, and can be successfully delivered through a variety of treatment modalities, making it possible to reach a broader range of patients who may not have access to more traditional programs. Future research in this area should focus on the translation of evidence into clinical practice in order to increase awareness and access to effective insomnia treatment in cancer care.

Garland, S. N., Johnson, J. A., Campbell, T., Savard, J., Gehrman, P., Perlis, M., & Carlson, L. (June 18, 2014). Sleeping well with cancer: A systematic review of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in cancer patientsNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 10, 1113-1123.

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