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Sleep Across Chemotherapy Treatment: A Growing Concern for Women Older Than 50 With Breast Cancer

Carol A. Enderlin
Elizabeth Ann Coleman
Catherine Cole
Kathy C. Richards
Laura F. Hutchins
Allen C. Sherman
ONF 2010, 37(4), 461-A3 DOI: 10.1188/10.ONF.461-468

Purpose/Objectives: To conduct a metasynthesis of human sleep studies that included women aged 50 years and older with breast cancer across chemotherapy treatment.

Data Sources: English publications were searched with the terms sleep and breast cancer via Ovid, PubMed, and EBSCO-host databases. Human studies that used sleep-specific instruments published from January 1974-May 2009 were included. Intervention studies also were included if they provided baseline sleep data. Studies that used quality-of-life or symptom instruments or in which patients were prescreened for insomnia were not included.

Data Synthesis: 382 publications were found; 17 met inclusion criteria, and 3 additional studies were located from the literature on fatigue. Two articles reported on the same study, so a total of 19 studies were included in the review. In women with nonmetastatic breast cancer, subjective and objective sleep quality appear to be poor and nocturnal awakenings frequent across chemotherapy treatment. Daytime sleepiness increases in the active phase of chemotherapy, and insomnia symptoms are common before and following chemotherapy treatment. In women with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer, difficulty falling asleep, nocturnal awakenings, difficulty awakening, and daytime sleepiness are problematic at different points in chemotherapy treatment.

Conclusions: Sleep for women, including those older than 50 years, appears to be impaired across chemotherapy treatment, although replication of findings is very limited.

Implications for Nursing: Future research should investigate sleep in specific age and minority groups, include daytime sleep and sleepiness, and use standard sleep nomenclature and objective measures.

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