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REF NO.: 42

SUBJECT: Every cancer survivor deserves a good nights sleep

DATE: Jan. 24

Dr. Sheila Garland and a team of researchers at Memorial University’s Sleep, Health and Wellness Lab are seeking participants interested in sleeping and living better after cancer treatment.

“Many people report that cancer treatment was bad enough, but they were unprepared for the other longer side effects such as insomnia, fatigue and difficulties with attention, concentration and memory,” said Dr. Garland, a clinical psychologist and the director of the lab.

Up to 60 per cent of cancer survivors report difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early. When this happens more than three nights per week for more than three months, it is considered insomnia.

Since taking up her position as an assistant professor of psychology and oncology at Memorial in 2015, Dr. Garland has been expanding efforts to improve the sleep of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians using cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I).

The American College of Physicians recommends CBT-I be the first line treatment, noting that medication should only be used when CBT-I is not available or desirable. But there are not enough experienced and qualified providers of CBT-I in North America, and cancer survivors don’t have universal access to psychological and behavioural treatments to improve long-term cancer side effects.

“One of the major challenges of living in a huge province that is spread out like Newfoundland and Labrador is making sure people have equal access to evidence-based interventions,” said Dr. Garland. “We are currently working on two studies that will allow cancer survivors from St. John’s to the tip of Labrador to participate in research to improve their sleep.”

The first study is recruiting women who have completed treatment for breast cancer and who experience insomnia, report problems with attention, concentration, or memory, and live in the St. John’s metropolitan area. These women will receive weekly face-to-face treatment over eight weeks.

The second study is recruiting any cancer survivor with insomnia, regardless of what type of cancer they were diagnosed with, to participate in a six-week online CBT-I study. The online study is accessible to anyone who has internet access.

Funding for these studies comes from the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Society and the Canadian Cancer Society.

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For more information about these studies, please contact the Sleep, Health and Wellness Lab at sleeplab@mun.ca or 709-864-8035.

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