Impact of Insomnia on Cancer Survivors, Particularly in Women

Insomnia is common in cancer survivors, and a recent study published in Sleep Medicine found that approximately half of patients with cancer have symptoms of insomnia that may persist for up to a year after treatment. Insomnia is particularly prevalent in women.

The longitudinal, multicenter German study included 405 patients with cancer, 56% of whom were female (mean age, 58.6 years). Researchers used the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) to measure cancer-related insomnia. They also assessed sociodemographic and clinical data and psychological parameters at baseline and at 12 months.

Half of patients experiencing insomnia

The prevalence of insomnia symptoms was high: 49.4% of participants had symptoms of insomnia (ISI >7), and 12.8% had a verified clinical diagnosis of insomnia (ISI >14). Among those who had insomnia at baseline, this persisted after one year in 64% of patients. At 12 months, significantly more women suffered from insomnia symptoms than men (53.3% vs. 39.3%; P=0.003).

Factors associated with insomnia

Insomnia was associated with many clinical and psychological parameters, particularly fatigue (r=0.5). In women, only insomnia at baseline was a significant predictor of insomnia at 12 months (P<0.001), whereas in men insomnia, depressive symptoms, and the use of psychotropic drugs at baseline were predictive of insomnia at 12 months (P<0.001). In men and women, levels of distress, depression, and anxiety decreased from baseline to 12 months (P<0.016 for all).

“Adequate support for those affected [by insomnia] is needed,” the authors concluded.