What Is Sleep-Wake Disturbance?

Sleep that is of good quality and in appropriate amounts is essential to good health and well-being. It therefore follows that insufficient or interrupted sleep may lead to negative effects on health. Sleep dysfunction has unfortunately become increasingly problematic for many people, as well as a significant issue for many patients with cancer and their caregivers (Berger, 2006).

A “sleep-wake disturbance” refers to a disorder that contributes to the disruption of proper sleep. Issues with sleep-wake disturbances are common in people with cancer (Roscoe et al., 2007). Many variables contribute to the incidence of sleep-wake disturbances in this population. Fortunately, the scientific community is becoming more aware of these issues and is now conducting more research in this area than ever before.

Many and varied possible factors contribute to sleep-wake disturbances in the oncology population. Because cancer is not a single disease, but instead many variances of complex and different disease processes, a variety of factors may be involved. These can include the cancer location and type itself, the type of treatment received, and the side effects associated with that treatment. Lifestyle, demographic, and psychological factors also may contribute to the development of sleep-wake disturbances.


Berger, A.M. (2006). Sleep and wakefulness. In K. Dow (Ed.), Nursing care of women with cancer (pp. 327–352). Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier.

Roscoe, J.A., Kaufman, M.E., Matteson-Rusby, S.E., Palesh, O.G., Ryan, J.L., & Kohli, S. (2007). Cancer-related fatigue and sleep disorders. Oncologist, 12(Suppl. 1), 35–42. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.12-S1-35