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Sleep May Be Cause, Not Consequence, of Cancer Issues

Last Updated: April 15, 2009.

Researchers suggest treating insomnia as a way to address pain.

WEDNESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- The pain and depression reported by people with cancer has often led to trouble sleeping -- or so people believed. But researchers have found that, in fact, sleep seems to cause those problems rather than be an effect of them.

Their study suggests that interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy aimed at eliminating the sleep issues could improve and decrease the pain and fatigue felt by people with cancer.

The researchers found that more than a quarter of the 11,445 people receiving cancer treatment at a Memphis clinic had severe to moderate trouble sleeping.

"We believed we would find a bi-directional relationship between insomnia and pain, but instead found that trouble sleeping was more likely a cause, rather than a consequence, of pain in patients with cancer," the study's lead author, Edward J. Stepanski, chief operational officer at the Accelerated Community Oncology Research Network in Memphis, said in a news release from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. The study is in the journal's April 15 issue.

The study also noted that younger people with cancer and those whose cancer treatment started more recently had greater problems with sleep than others did. The authors noted that more aggressive chemotherapy is given to younger patients, possibly causing toxicity issues.

More information

The National Sleep Foundation has more about how sleep works.

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, April 15, 2009

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