Poor sleep affects more than 50% of adult survivors of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma

Fatigue and poor sleep are common side effects for adult survivors of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma. A team of LTFU Study researchers wanted to find out more about what causes these side effects.

Published: 04/01/17

Woman yawning with head on table

Fatigue and poor sleep are common side effects for adult survivors of childhood Hodgkin lymphoma (HL).  A team of LTFU Study researchers wanted to find out more about what causes these side effects. They also wanted to learn what might work to improve sleep quality for survivors. Dr. Amanda Rach of the University of Virginia led the team.

The researchers looked at survey responses from 751 HL survivors. The survivors reported on their experience of three common problems:

  1. Fatigue (feeling exhausted or worn-out, having trouble completing everyday activities)
  2. Poor sleep quality (having a hard time falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, having trouble sleeping because of pain, etc.)
  3. Excessive daytime sleepiness (falling asleep or dozing while doing everyday activities such as watching TV, riding in a car, or sitting and talking to someone)

The team found that:

  • More than half of the survivors in the study reported poor sleep.  In contrast, only 17 percent reported fatigue. Twenty-two percent reported daytime sleepiness.
  • Having emotional distress, pain and physical limitations increased survivors’ risk of fatigue.
  • Survivors who reported cancer-related pain, other body pain, or emotional distress were most likely to have poor sleep.
  • Survivors with body pain were two times more likely to have excessive daytime sleepiness compared to those without pain.
  • The team noted that pain was linked to all three problems. They emphasized the importance of pain management for survivors.

Dr. Rach observed that the participants in this study were similar to members of the general population in their levels of pain, emotional distress, and physical functioning. This is encouraging because it means that strategies to improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue that were developed for the general population might also work well for survivors.

What does this mean for you?

Pain can interfere with sleep and poor sleep can make pain worse. Fortunately, many methods exist to improve sleep quality and many of these methods may help with pain, too.  If you regularly experience pain, fatigue, or poor sleep, please tell your health care provider and let him or her know about your treatment history. Improving your sleep may be as simple as making changes to your nightly routine or sleeping environment.  Alternatively, it might involve medication (or meditation!), massage, physical exercise, and more. Your doctor can help you put together a plan that’s right for you.

Citation

Rach AM, Crabtree VM, Brinkman TM, et al. Predictors of fatigue and poor sleep in adult survivors of childhood Hodgkin's lymphoma: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. J Cancer Surviv. 2017, 11(2):256-263.