Sleep Disorders in Cancer-A Systematic Review

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Nov 7;18(21):11696. doi: 10.3390/ijerph182111696.


Introduction: Sleep disorders, especially insomnia, are very common in different kinds of cancers, but their prevalence and incidence are not well-known. Disturbed sleep in cancer is caused by different reasons and usually appears as a comorbid disorder to different somatic and psychiatric diagnoses, psychological disturbances and treatment methods. There can be many different predictors for sleep disturbances in these vulnerable groups, such as pre-existing sleep disorders, caused by the mental status in cancer or as side effect of the cancer treatment.

Methods: A systematic literature review of 8073 studies was conducted on the topic of sleep and sleep disorders in cancer patients. The articles were identified though PubMed, PsycInfo and Web of Knowledge, and a total number of 89 publications were qualified for analysis.

Results: The identified eighty-nine studies were analyzed on the topic of sleep and sleep disorders in cancer, twenty-six studies on sleep and fatigue in cancer and sixty-one studies on the topic of sleep disorders in cancer. The prevalence of sleep disturbences and/or sleep disorders in cancer was up to 95%.

Discussion: Sleep disturbances and sleep disorders (such as insomnia, OSAS, narcolepsy and RLS; REM-SBD) in cancer patients can be associated with different conditions. Side effects of cancer treatment and cancer-related psychological dysfunctions can be instigated by sleep disturbances and sleep disorders in these patients, especially insomnia and OSAS are common. An evidence-based treatment is necessary for concomitant mental and/or physical states.

Keywords: REM-sleep behavior disorder (REM-SBD); cancer; fatigue; insomnia; narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome (RLS); sleep; sleep disorders; sleep disturbances; sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD)/obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Narcolepsy*
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome*
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / etiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / etiology