Cognitive Behavioral Training for Insomnia (CBT-i), a form of brief therapy focused on modifying emotions, behaviors and thoughts related to sleep, is the most effective first-line treatment for cancer-related insomnia, explained Sheila Garland, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, at the recent Society for Integrative Oncology conference. The intervention should take precedence over sleep medications, which provide only short-term relief. 

Acupuncture has also been shown to relieve cancer-related insomnia. In a randomized study, Garland and Jun J. Mao, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, reported that CBT-i was more effective than acupuncture, especially for mild insomnia. 

Now, however, Mao has further analyzed the data and identified a subgroup of people who report more relief from acupuncture—those with chronic pain. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” he said. “If you have insomnia and pain, acupuncture may be better.”

For more pain solutions, see “When Cancer Pain Won’t Go Away.”

To learn more about sleep and cancer, see "Sleep Solutions."