Berger, A. M., Kuhn, B. R., Farr, L. A., Lynch, J. C., Agrawal, S., Chamberlain, J., & Von Essen, S. G. (2009). Behavioral therapy intervention trial to improve sleep quality and cancer-related fatigue. Psycho-Oncology, 18, 634–646.doi: 10.1002/pon.1438
To determine the effect of behavioral therapy (BT)—specifically, an individualized sleep promotion plan (ISPP)—on sleep quality and fatigue in patients with breast cancer undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy.
Eligible women who consented to participate were randomized using stratified random sampling to either the BT group or to a healthy eating control (HEC) group prior to adjuvant chemotherapy. Patients completed questionnaires at baseline and wore a wrist actigraph for two days prior to initial treatment. Patients randomized to the BT group developed an ISPP during individual visits with the research nurse two days prior to treatment. Modifications to this plan were made two days prior to each treatment and 30 days after the last treatment. Modifications were based on patients' sleep diary data and treatment adherence. BT plans were reinforced during 15-minute sessions seven days after each revision. Patients in the HEC group received equal time and attention during individual visits and received information on healthy eating topics at each visit. Patients in the HEC group were referred to their treatment clinic for questions about fatigue and sleep.
The study was conducted in 12 oncology clinics in the Midwestern United States.
Patients were undergoing the active treatment phase of care.
This was a randomized, controlled trial.
Mean PSQI scores in both groups were greater than five, which indicated poor sleep compared to the general population; however, mean scores were not greater than eight, a cutoff score associated with poor sleep quality in patients with breast cancer. Actigraphy and diary data showed normal sleep duration and sleep efficiency in both groups across treatment and follow-up. Number of awakenings after sleep onset measured by both sleep diaries and actigraphy were higher than normal in both groups. Significant differences between sleep diaries and actigraphy were observed for all sleep variables (p < 0.01 for all variables), with lower numbers of awakenings and higher sleep efficiency per diary data in the BT group. A significant group by time interaction was found for changes in the PSQI, with sleep quality improving in the BT group (p < 0.049). Although not significant, there were trends towards improved sleep quality over time in the BT group per actigraphy for total sleep time and number of awakening and per sleep diary for sleep efficiency. Perceived fatigue changed significantly over time in both groups (p < 0.001), with increased fatigue during treatments and decreased fatigue after the end of treatments in both groups. There was no apparent effect of BT on fatigue levels.
Patients in the BT group showed greater improvement in sleep quality over time than those in the the HEC group, although perceptions of improved sleep quality were not consistently associated with objective sleep measures, sleep diaries, or reported fatigue. BT was not shown to have an effect on fatigue.
BT may be used by trained nurses to improve sleep quality in patients with breast cancer receiving adjuvant chemotherapy. Further research is needed to determine the long-term effects of BT on sleep quality and fatigue in this population.