Women worrying about cancer are more likely to experience sleep disturbances

June 09, 2008

WESTCHESTER, Ill. - A significant number of women worrying about cancer may be experiencing sleep disturbances, even without a breast cancer diagnosis, according to a research abstract that will be presented by Amita Dharawat, MD, on Monday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

This collaborative study, from the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, focused on 1,038 community-based residents, between 50 and 70 years of age; none of whom had a history of a physician-diagnosed cancer. Sleep complaint was defined as a report of either difficulty initiating sleep, maintaining sleep, or early morning awakening.

According to the results, 65 percent of the women reported that they worried about developing breast cancer, and 49 percent reported a sleep complaint. Twenty-seven percent indicated that cancer worry affected their mood, while 25 percent indicated that it affected their daily activity. The odds of reporting sleep complaints for women who worry about cancer were nearly 50 percent greater than odds for women who reported no cancer worry, independent of several confounders.

"This is a unique and important finding because sleep-related complaints have never been studied in women who worry about cancer, without a diagnosis, and it provides practitioners with knowledge with regards to identifying and targeting women who report sleep-related complaints with cognitive behavioral therapy," said Dr. Dharawat, who is a second year medical resident, working with Dr. Girardin Jean-Louis on an NIH funded 'Women's Health Project'.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps eliminate negative images and thoughts that compromise one's ability to sleep well. It helps develop habits that promote a healthy pattern of sleep. CBT is most often used for people who suffer from insomnia.

Sleep plays a vital role in promoting women's health and well being. Getting the required amount of sleep is likely to enhance women's overall quality of life. Yet, they face many potential barriers - such as life events, depression, illness, and medication use - that often disrupt their sleep patterns. Overcoming these challenges can help women enjoy the daily benefits of feeling alert and well rested.

It is recommended that women get between seven and eight hours of nightly sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers the following tips for women on how to get a good night's sleep: Those who suspect that they might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with their primary care physician or a sleep specialist.

-end-
More information about "women and sleep" is available from the AASM at http://www.SleepEducation.com/Topic.aspx?id=67.

The annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of 5,000 leading researchers and clinicians in the field of sleep medicine to present and discuss new findings and medical developments related to sleep and sleep disorders.

More than 1,000 research abstracts will be presented at the SLEEP meeting, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society. The three-and-a-half-day scientific meeting will bring to light new findings that enhance the understanding of the processes of sleep and aid the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

SleepEducation.com, a patient education Web site created by the AASM, provides information about various sleep disorders, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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