Wiley Logo Childhood cancer survivors not only face a long-term risk of stroke, but also have higher chances of death within the next 25 years. After brooding over data from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study, scientists assert that such patients also suffer from sleep problems and fatigue, which negatively impact their attention and memory. It was mentioned that addressing sleep hygiene among survivors of childhood cancer may help to boost their cognitive health.

Cognitive problems like trouble with attention and memory can supposedly arise in survivors of childhood cancer. These complications apparently occur due to a direct or indirect result of treatment. This in turn can allegedly hamper future education, employment and the ability to live independently. For analyzing the effects of fatigue and sleep disruption on cognitive function in long-term survivors of childhood cancer, experts thoroughly scrutinized a questionnaire completed by 1,426 individuals from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study.

Approximately 20 percent of survivors reported cognitive impairment that is associated with poor sleep and fatigue. Answers to the questionnaire pointed out that long-term survivors of childhood cancer who have problems sleeping or have frequent daytime sleepiness and fatigue are three to four times more likely to have attention and memory problems than survivors who sleep well. Since survivors are already at increased risk for attention and memory problems, sleep loss and fatigue apparently make these cognitive problems worse.

Dr. Kevin Krull, PhD, of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and colleagues observed that survivors’ cognitive problems linked with poor sleep and fatigue are unrelated to the effects of brain radiation, chemotherapy, or the current age of the survivor. Subjects on antidepressant medications probably were 50 percent more likely to report attention problems and 70 percent more likely to report memory problems. It was concluded that improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue can seemingly enhance attention and memory functions in survivors.

The study is published online in CANCER.