Cancer & Sleep - How & Why Cancer Survivors suffer from Sleep Deprivation

Problems such as not being able to fall asleep or not being able to stay asleep, also called insomnia, are common in people receiving cancer treatment. These problems are usually due to side effects of treatment, medications, long hospital stays, stress, and other factors. Study results indicate that during treatment about half of people have sleep-related problems.

Talk to your health care team if you're having trouble sleeping so you can get the help you need. Sleep problems that last a long time increase the risk of anxiety or depression. To properly diagnose and treat sleep problems, a doctor or specialist may do an evaluation that includes a polysomnogram (recordings of your brain waves, breathing rate, and other activities such as heart rate) while you sleep.

Screenings are likely to be repeated from time to time because sleep problems change over time. It is important to learn more about Sleep Studies: when they are necessary, what to expect during the study and the possible recommendations of the doctor.

Getting a good night's sleep is important for physical and mental health. Getting a good night's sleep helps you think more clearly, lowers blood pressure, improves appetite, and strengthens the immune system.

Sleep deprivation is a global epidemic, affecting up to 2.3 billion people worldwide, 225 million of which reside in Europe. However, when we combine sleep deprivation in cancer survivors, the numbers and perspective change completely.

A significant number of cancer survivors have sleep problems years after a cancer diagnosis, and American Cancer Society researchers have found that these problems were related to the fear of cancer returning or distress from a physical, emotional, or financial issue related to cancer.

The researchers found that:

  • 21% of the survivors said they didn’t sleep well (had poor sleep quality).

  • 51% said they frequently had trouble sleeping (had high sleep disturbance).

  • 17% said they had problems with both sleep quality and disturbance.

  • 28% said they took medicine to help them sleep.

These numbers show that cancer patients, even after years of treatment have trouble sleeping due to many external factors as well. During cancer treatment, anxiety, depression, deep fatigue, digestive-system problems, breathing problems, hot flashes, night sweats and pain can all keep you from falling asleep and staying asleep.

Findings suggest that the residual effects of cancer may continue to negatively affect a survivor’s sleep. Not surprisingly, poor sleepers were more likely to report that they had more physical and emotional distress. Perhaps more unexpected were results that showed survivors who were sleeping poorly were also more likely to be having some economic hardship and expressed worries about money and a fear of cancer recurrence.

Digital health products and services promote an easy, affordable, and readily available use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and electronic devices to improve health outcomes. It is significantly easier to scale than conventional approaches, eases the process of data gathering, and enables exponential learning through synergy effects between users.

Drowzee has developed a functioning prototype of a novel data-driven product, the Pendulum. It helps people turn sleep insights into gamified executable actions through a combination of brain training, sleep monitoring, and data analytics.

Drowzee’s product, Pendulum, is offered as an at-home solution for people with sleep complaints while being easy to use, globally accessible, reduces the operational cost of treatment, and turns sleep insights into gamified executable actions.

Pendulum helps people improve their sleep through a combination of brain training, sleep monitoring, and data analytics. The product improves time to fall asleep, while reducing awakenings during the night, thus helping cancer patients and survivors survive and strive.

Pendulum is plug and play, based on science, and makes improving sleep engaging by augmenting data insights into pragmatic actions. The science behind it is inspired by a heritage of research, called operant conditioning, and further developed in-house, based on real user data and analytics.

The solution consists of an EEG headset, capable of reading brain activity in real-time, and a mobile application for keeping an overview of data analytics and suggestions for action. It allows the user to conduct brain training, which rebalances the brain for better sleep, monitor and track their sleep quality, and receive concrete suggestions for improvements. The headband itself can be worn during the night for tracking and analyzing sleep. However, the Pendulum also allows for third party sleep monitor integration for more accurate data gathering. Data from the headband and integrated devices are utilized to provide the users with pragmatic suggestions for how to improve their sleep health.

Our ambition is to provide the best solution of connected bedroom devices so that users can get an ultimate experience in terms of brain training, meta-insights, and gamified executable tasks for improving their sleep health.

The scientific concept behind the brain training is a technique known as neurofeedback training (NFT). NFT allows users to:

(1) Gain insight into the brain processes which are the root cause of their neuropathology and

(2) To rebalance the dysregulated brain patterns which underlie their symptoms.

Neurofeedback is currently available to insomniacs, as well as people suffering from other neuropathologies, in neurofeedback clinics.

Most technologies exiting in the market are predominantly designed to be used during sleep, for monitoring purposes. This is great for generating insights but does not readily provide users with actions to overcome sleep disturbance.

CBTi has well documented effects, but mainly consist of knowledge-based approaches spread through written or digital material.

Our approach is rooted in a core scientific observation, operant conditioning, while making it actionable through gamification and augmentation. This means we help move it from knowledge-based approaches (sleep monitoring and research) into real-world actions intended to be rewarded through mechanisms evolved in the game industry.

Moreover, our solution has been developed to work with existing solutions and infrastructure, through close collaboration with other companies and representatives from the healthcare system.

[1] Strollo, S. E., Fallon, E. A., Gapstur, S. M., & Smith, T. G. (2020). Cancer-related problems, sleep quality, and sleep disturbance among long-term cancer survivors at 9-years post diagnosis. Sleep medicine, 65, 177-185.

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