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Sleep disturbances in cancer patients may amplify anxiety

A study carried out by researchers from the Hospital Inmaculada ONCOSUR-Granada hospital and the UGR department of Personality, Assessment and Psychological Treatment describes the pattern of sleep disturbances suffered by patients with cancer before receiving radiotherapy treatment.

The researchers have shown patients who are about to undergo radiotherapy demonstrate significant sleep problems.

These sleep problems were found to be associated with progression of the cancer, and other psychosomatic symptoms caused by the disease, such as anxiety.

This study, published in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing, included the experiences 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.

Secondary variables were the impact of pain on sleep, anxiety and fatigue.

The researchers analysed the impact that cancer severity, history of treatment, and psychosomatic symptoms, such as anxiety, have on sleep problems.

The participants reported important levels of insomnia and hypersomnia, or excessive tiredness during waking hours caused by a lack of sleep.

"Insomnia-related problems were significantly higher in patients with a more severe disease, which led to higher levels of hypnotic drug intake," explains UGR researcher Escarlata López, lead author of this work.

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".

Source: University Of Granada

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