Hyperarousal and Insomnia in Survivors of Cancer

Kristen E. Riley, Sheila N. Garland, Jun J. Mao, Allison J. Applebaum, Q. Susan Li, Philip R. Gehrman, Katherine N. DuHamel, Zoe Verrico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Cancer survivors are prone to insomnia due to the physical and psychological sequelae of cancer and treatment. Individuals with insomnia may present symptoms of hyperarousal. Cancer survivors with insomnia and trait hyperarousal may require different clinical treatments than patients with insomnia without trait hyperarousal. To our knowledge, no study has examined these factors previously. This study examined the relation between insomnia and trait hyperarousal in cancer survivors. Methods: The sample included 160 individuals with previous cancer diagnoses who met DSM-5 criteria for insomnia disorder. Measures were collected with cross-sectional batteries of questionnaires, including the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) and Hyperarousal Scale (HAS). This study is based on baseline data collected in a randomized clinical trial comparing CBT-I to acupuncture for cancer survivors with insomnia (Garland, Gehrman, Barg, Xie, & Mao, 2016). Results: Hyperarousal was positively associated with insomnia (ISI total score) in bivariate correlations (r =.350, p <.01) and linear regressions (F = 22.06, p <.001). In bivariate correlations, hyperarousal was related to perceptions about the consequences of disturbed sleep rather than reported sleep patterns. For example, hyperarousal was positively related to reported satisfaction (r =.159, p <.05) and worry about sleep (r =.415, p <.01), but not to falling asleep, staying asleep, or awakening too early. In regressions, younger age, insomnia duration, and worry about sleep were uniquely associated with hyperarousal when adjusting for insomnia (B = 0.200, B = 0.177, B = −0.182, p <.05). Conclusions: Hyperarousal is associated with psychological appraisal of insomnia rather than reported sleep pattern. Younger age and longer duration of insomnia are associated with trait hyperarousal. These findings suggest targeting trait hyperarousal with amplified psychological treatment may lead to more personalized, effective treatment for insomnia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)683-691
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Hyperarousal
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep


Dive into the research topics of 'Hyperarousal and Insomnia in Survivors of Cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this