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Sleep disorders during and after cancer in children

Valerie McLaughlin Crabtree, PhD
Merrill S Wise, MD
Section Editor
Ronald D Chervin, MD, MS
Deputy Editor
Alison G Hoppin, MD


Advances in treatment for childhood cancers have led to dramatic increases in survival, with overall five-year survival rates of more than 80 percent by 2010 [1]. Rates of survival vary by the type of cancer; more than 90 percent of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia survive to adulthood, while most children with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma die within one year from diagnosis (table 1) [1]. With improved survival, it becomes important for providers to focus on optimizing quality of life and function during and after treatment, including addressing sleep problems and fatigue.

Sleep disturbances are among the most frequently reported symptoms experienced by oncology patients during cancer-directed therapy, and in some cases these problems continue into survivorship [2,3]. These include excessive daytime sleepiness, as well as nighttime problems such as poor sleep efficiency, insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and restless legs syndrome (RLS) [3-7]. In addition, many patients experience cancer-related fatigue, which can be exacerbated by sleep disturbance, although it is not itself a sleep disorder. Sleep disruption and fatigue often have adverse effects on mood, behavior, daily activities, social interaction, overall quality of life, and possibly on immune function [8-12].

The clinical characteristics, consequences, and management of sleep problems in children with cancer, and in cancer survivors, will be discussed here. Other topic reviews with related content include:

(See "Behavioral sleep problems in children".)

(See "Overview of cancer survivorship in adolescent and young adults".)

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Literature review current through: Sep 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 22, 2017.
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