BACKGROUND: Sleep problems are common but often neglected in older adults, particularly in the context of cancer. Underlying mechanisms are poorly understood and interventions frequently lack a clear scientific basis. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this report was to examine scientific content presented at a National Institutes of Health-sponsored U13 "Bedside to Bench" conference using a qualitative and iterative review procedure. Analysis of current scientific issues regarding sleep in older adults with cancer is needed to direct nurse scientists and clinicians toward research opportunities. METHODS: A multistep review procedure for the analysis/synthesis of knowledge gaps and research opportunities was undertaken by oncology nurse scientists in attendance. RESULTS: Conceptual problems in this area include the lack of standard sleep terminology and absence of an overarching conceptual model. Methodological problems are inconsistent sleep/napping measurement and complex operational challenges in designing comprehensive yet feasible studies in older adults. Knowledge gaps in basic and clinical science relate to cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie sleep and circadian rhythm disturbances, contribution of sleep to adverse outcomes, and impact of disturbed sleep during hospitalization and the transition from hospital to home. CONCLUSIONS: Focused and interdisciplinary research that advances conceptual and operational understanding of biological and behavioral determinants of sleep health in the aging cancer population can lead to more effective, safe, and targeted interventions for those with cancer-related sleep-circadian disturbances. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Research that addresses current conceptual, methodological, and physiological issues can lead to more effective, safe, and targeted care for older adults with cancer-related sleep-circadian disturbances.
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