Health & Medicine - Posted by Josh Barney-Virginia on Friday, June 29, 2012 14:39 - 1 Comment
Online guide helps cancer patients sleep
U. VIRGINIA (US) — A new online program could help the more than 60 percent of cancer patients and survivors with disturbed sleep and the more than 30 percent with insomnia.
Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine wanted to see if their Sleep Healthy Using The Internet program, or SHUTi for short, could help cancer survivors overcome their sleep difficulties and return to healthy sleep habits.
Straight from the Source
“Cancer survivors tend to have a two to three time greater likelihood of sleep difficulty than otherwise healthy people,” says Lee Ritterband, associate professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences.
“For these folks, oftentimes the cancer diagnosis and/or the cancer treatment regimen can trigger sleep difficulties. Once that precipitating event occurs … these perpetuating behaviors set in. They get into bad habits, basically, and start to have poor sleep. Even once that precipitating event passes, they continue to sleep poorly.”
SHUTi can help change that, according to the study published in the journal Psycho-Oncology.
The researchers evaluated SHUTi’s effects on 14 cancer survivors, age 21 or older, who had completed their cancer treatment at least a month prior to the study. The participants all believed their cancer diagnosis or treatment had either caused or worsened their trouble sleeping. Fourteen other cancer survivors with sleep difficulties were used as a control group in the randomized controlled trial. They did not go through the nine-week online program.
Those who used SHUTi saw “terrific results,” Ritterband says. The program cut the average time needed to fall asleep from almost 50 minutes to less than 20.
“We found their overall insomnia severity significantly decreased,” he says. “Sleep efficiency improved, the time spent awake in bed before they fell asleep improved, the soundness of sleep improved,” he notes. “They were feeling better when they woke up, feeling more restored. And they had a general reduction in fatigue, which is a big issue with this population.”
The SHUTi program is essentially an interactive guide to a better night’s sleep. All users are provided certain core content, but SHUTi tailors its behavior recommendations to each individual user.
By tracking sleep habits and users’ responses to questions, it can customize the content to help each user overcome his or her particular sleep problems. For example, SHUTi might guide someone who tosses and turns in bed for 10 hours at night to initially reduce that time spent in bed, so that the period of quality sleep becomes more concentrated. In time, this length is increased so the person can gain more time asleep in bed.
Ritterband next intends to put SHUTi to the test in a much larger trial involving more cancer survivors.
“Ultimately, our hope is to basically create a tailored version of this intervention for that particular population,” he says. “We’ve had such good results, but we think we can do even better.”
More news from the University of Virginia: www.virginia.edu/uvatoday