Background: The literature describing the incidence of sleep difficulty in CNS cancers is very limited, with exploration of a sleep difficulty symptom trajectory particularly sparse in people with advanced disease. We aimed to establish the prevalence and longitudinal trajectory of sleep difficulty in populations with CNS cancers receiving palliative care nationally, and to identify clinically modifiable predictors of sleep difficulty.
Methods: A consecutive cohort of 2406 patients with CNS cancers receiving palliative care from sites participating in the Australian national Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration were evaluated longitudinally on patient-reported sleep difficulty from point-of-care data collection, comorbid symptoms, and clinician-rated problems. Multilevel models were used to analyze patient-reported sleep difficulty.
Results: Reporting of mild to severe sleep difficulties ranged from 10% to 43%. Sleep scores fluctuated greatly over the course of palliative care. While improvement in patients’ clinical status was associated with less sleep difficulty, the relationship was not clear when patients deteriorated. Worsening of sleep difficulty was associated with higher psychological distress (P < .0001), greater breathing problems (P < .05) and pain (P < .05), and higher functional status (P < .001) at the beginning of care.
Conclusions: Sleep difficulty is prevalent but fluctuates widely in patients with CNS cancers receiving palliative care. A better-tailored sleep symptom assessment may be needed for this patient population. Early interventions targeting psychological distress, breathing symptoms, and pain for more functional patients should be explored to see whether it reduces sleep difficulties late in life.