Sleep-Wake Disturbances in People With Cancer Part I: An Overview of Sleep, Sleep Regulation, and Effects of Disease and Treatment

Catherine Vena

Kathy P. Parker

Mary Cunningham

Jane C. Clark

Sandra W. McLeskey

ONF 2004, 31(4), 735-746. DOI: 10.1188/04.ONF.735-746

Purpose/Objectives: To provide an overview of normal sleep, describe common sleep disorders, and discuss underlying sleep regulatory processes and how cancer, cancer treatment, and associated patient responses may adversely affect sleep.

Data Sources: Published peer-reviewed articles and textbooks.

Data Synthesis: The duration, structure, and timing of sleep have a profound impact on health, well-being, and performance. Patients with cancer may be at risk for disturbances in sleeping and waking resulting from disease- and nondisease-related circumstances that interfere with normal sleep regulation, including demographic, lifestyle, psychological, and disease- and treatment-related factors.

Conclusions: Patients with cancer are at high risk for sleep-wake disturbances.

Implications for Nursing: An understanding of normal sleep, sleep pathology, and the factors that can precipitate sleep disturbance provides a context for nurses to interpret sleep complaints in their patients, evaluate responses to sleep-promoting interventions, and guide decision making regarding referrals.

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