Sleep disturbance in adults with cancer: a systematic review of evidence for best practices in assessment and management for clinical practice Academic Article uri icon

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  • Sleep disturbance is prevalent in cancer with detrimental effects on health outcomes. Sleep problems are seldom identified or addressed in cancer practice. The purpose of this review was to identify the evidence base for the assessment and management of cancer-related sleep disturbance (insomnia and insomnia syndrome) for oncology practice. The search of the health literature included grey literature data sources and empirical databases from June 2004 to June 2012. The evidence was reviewed by a Canadian Sleep Expert Panel, comprised of nurses, psychologists, primary care physicians, oncologists, physicians specialized in sleep disturbances, researchers and guideline methodologists to develop clinical practice recommendations for pan-Canadian use reported in a separate paper. Three clinical practice guidelines and 12 randomized, controlled trials were identified as the main source of evidence. Additional guidelines and systematic reviews were also reviewed for evidence-based recommendations on the assessment and management of insomnia not necessarily in cancer. A need to routinely screen for sleep disturbances was identified and the randomized, controlled trial (RCT) evidence suggests benefits for cognitive behavioural therapy for improving sleep quality in cancer. Sleep disturbance is a prevalent problem in cancer that needs greater recognition in clinical practice and in future research.


  • Howell, D
  • Oliver, TK
  • Keller-Olaman, S
  • Davidson, JR
  • Garland, S
  • Samuels, C
  • Savard, J
  • Harris, C
  • Aubin, M
  • Olson, K
  • Sussman, Jonathan
  • MacFarlane, J
  • Taylor, C

publication date

  • April 2014