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Sleeping well with cancer: a systematic review of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in cancer patients

Authors Garland S, Johnson J, Savard J, Gehrman P, Perlis M, Carlson L, Campbell T

Received 8 February 2014

Accepted for publication 14 March 2014

Published 18 June 2014 Volume 2014:10 Pages 1113—1124


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Sheila N Garland,1 Jillian A Johnson,2 Josee Savard,3 Philip Gehrman,4 Michael Perlis,4 Linda Carlson,5 Tavis Campbell2

1Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA; 2Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada; 3School of Psychology, Laval University, Quebec City, QC, Canada; 4Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA; 5Department of Oncology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

Abstract: Individuals 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.

Keywords: CBT-I, cancer, insomnia, sleep, systematic review, quality of life, survivors

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