Around 1 in 5 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK take part in a clinical trial.
A study comparing two different ways of treating sleeplessness in cancer patients
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This study looked at a treatment called cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) as treatment for sleeplessness (insomnia). It was for people who had one of the following
The study was supported by Cancer Research UK.
Insomnia is a common problem for people with cancer. This can be due to a number of things such as stress or the side effects of treatment. We know from research that people who are not able to sleep are more likely to be depressed and anxious than people who don’t have problems sleeping. People with insomnia also find it more difficult to cope with their situation, and it can affect how they feel physically.
Doctors usually treat sleeping problems with sleeping tablets or other medication. In this trial doctors wanted to see if cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is able to help cancer patients sleep better without needing to take medication.
This study compared CBT to ‘treatment as usual’ for patients who have long term insomnia. The aim of the trial was to find out which treatment is best at relieving sleeplessness. And more about how they affect quality of life.
Summary of results
The trial team found that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) may be a useful and acceptable treatment for cancer patients with insomnia.
150 people took part in this trial
- Two thirds (100 people) had 5 sessions of CBT with a trained therapist
- One third (50 people) had ‘treatment as usual’
The researchers asked everybody taking part in the study to keep a sleep diary. When the research team looked at the diaries and analysed the results, they found on average people who had CBT slept for about an hour longer each night than people having standard treatment. This difference was seen for up to 6 months after CBT finished.
The researchers also looked at quality of life. They found that people who had CBT reported fewer problems with tiredness, anxiety and depression than the standard treatment group. No side effects were reported with either treatment.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Professor Colin Espie
Cancer Research UK
This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/03/025.