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Researchers aim to improve cancer patients' sleep patterns

(WCAX)
Published: Jan. 6, 2020 at 1:42 PM EST
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Many cancer survivors have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Now, research shows a new approach can help them get a good night's rest.

Ken Giacoppo struggles with insomnia, and since being diagnosed with brain cancer two years ago it's gotten worse. "I'm just fatigued constantly all the time during the day, so I take cat naps," he said.

The stress of having cancer and the grueling treatments can all impact patients' sleep.

"These are all insults to the system that may disrupt sleep that in the short term people cope with reasonably well, but then as they persist... the consequences of insufficient sleep or fragmented sleep are real," said study author Dr. Eric Zhou with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Giacoppo is taking a sleep education class for cancer survivors at Dana-Farber that covers good sleep hygiene, such as no screen time before bed and napping less once you've completed treatment. But Dr. Zhou says the key is giving patients guidance on implementing it.

"A consistent wake time is very important of fundamental element of good sleep," He said. "These are the kinds of things we sat down and analyzed, broke down for each individual survivor."

A new study of more than 50 cancer patients finds over 40 percent had their moderate to severe insomnia cured after one class.

Giacoppo plans to use what he's learned at home. "I can't get anything done I am so tired. So, I'm hoping that this is going to help out, just a small part of my life. He says a better night's sleep will mean better time spent with family.

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