Evaluation and treatment of insomnia in adult cancer survivorship programs



Insomnia is commonly experienced by cancer survivors. Chronic insomnia is associated with significant physical and psychosocial consequences if not properly treated. Both the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommend the evaluation of sleep disturbances and evidence-based treatment of insomnia during routine survivorship care. To better understand current clinical practices, we conducted a survey of major cancer centers across the United States (US).


Adult survivorship programs at the 25 US cancer centers that are both NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers and NCCN member institutions were surveyed about the evaluation and treatment of insomnia in their hospital.


All institutions responded to the survey. Thirteen centers (56 %) reported screening <25 % of survivors for sleep disorders, and few clinicians providing survivorship care were well-prepared to conduct a proper sleep evaluation. Insomnia was most commonly treated with sleep hygiene, or pharmacotherapy, rather than cognitive-behavioral therapy. No program reported that >50 % of their survivors were receiving optimal insomnia-related care. A variety of methods to improve insomnia care were endorsed by respondents.


There is a clear need to improve the evaluation and treatment of insomnia for cancer survivors at institutions across the country. Cancer centers deemed a number of modalities relevant for improving provider confidence in addressing sleep challenges.

Implications for cancer survivors

To improve the quality of insomnia care for survivors, systematic interventions to increase standardized screening for sleep disorders, providing additional sleep medicine training for survivorship clinicians, and optimizing the role of sleep medicine specialists in the oncology setting should be considered.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eric S. Zhou.

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This study was funded by internal support at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Zhou, E.S., Partridge, A.H., Syrjala, K.L. et al. Evaluation and treatment of insomnia in adult cancer survivorship programs. J Cancer Surviv 11, 74–79 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11764-016-0564-1

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  • Insomnia
  • Sleep disorders
  • Cancer survivorship
  • Oncology
  • Evaluation and treatment