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Changes in Sleep Patterns Effect Breast Cancer Survivors' Quality Of Life

Posted May 27 2011 9:47am
Studies have reported that many breast cancer patients suffer from a variety of sleep disturbances including having difficulty getting to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, or waking up earlier in the mornings.  While this can clearly lead to a decrease in sleep duration, it has also been shown that it can lead to an increase in daytime napping and an overall increase in sleep time.  These changes in sleep duration have been linked to a number of factors, like fatigue, depression, and anxiety, that can decrease a breast cancer survivor's quality of life.

Potential causes of changes in sleep duration and the impact of changes in sleep duration on certain aspects of the quality of life of breast cancer survivors were the focus of a new breast cancer research study .  For this study, information on sleep duration, breast cancer treatments, and multiple aspects of quality of life was collected from 572 breast cancer survivors and analyzed.  The results of this study showed that
  • About 25% of the breast cancer survivors reported sleep duration changes that were either temporary (~6%), late-occurring (~14%), or sustained (~6%) changes in the amount of time they slept.
  • Compared to before their breast cancer diagnosis, about 12% of breast cancer survivors reported sleeping less than normal 6 months after diagnosis and about 20% reported sleeping less than normal 30 months after diagnosis.
  • A similar pattern was observed for over sleeping with about 18% of survivors reporting over-sleeping 6 months after diagnosis and about 27% sleeping more than normal 30 months after diagnosis.
  • Breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy were about 2.6 times as likely to experience changes in the amount of time they slept.
  • Gaining weight after breast cancer diagnosis nearly doubled the risk of changes in sleep duration.
  • Sustained changes in the amount of sleep the breast cancer survivors received resulted in substantially greater feelings of fatigue and decreased vitality as well as possible decreases in other aspects of quality of life such as social functioning, mental health, and bodily pain.
This is an interesting study that clearly points out the importance of breast cancer patients getting their normal amount of sleep whenever possible.  While the effect of chemotherapy on sleep duration problems is not something breast cancer survivors have much control over, preventing weight gain after diagnosis is one factor over which breast cancer survivor's can have some control.  It is rather surprising to see the link between weight gain and sleep problems; however, this also might be related to chemotherapy treatment.  Chemotherapy has been shown to cause weight gain in breast cancer patients.  These are important factors to keep in mind when planning a survivorship strategy.  Preventing weight gain after a breast cancer diagnosis has multiple benefits and based on this study that includes less sleep problems and a subsequently better quality of life.  Knowing that chemotherapy and weight gain can cause these sleep disturbance issues, whether separately or together, is an important first step to maintaining a better quality of life for breast cancer survivors.

To learn about other diet and lifestyle choices to reduce your breast cancer risk, read my FREE book FIGHT NOW: EAT & LIVE PROACTIVELY AGAINST BREAST CANCER . Please recommend to anyone interested in breast cancer, breast cancer treatment, and breast cancer symptoms.
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