Sleep Well with Cancer over the Internet

A randomized trial of the effectiveness of online treatment for insomnia in cancer survivors


Almost one third of cancer survivors experience chronic insomnia, a condition that is associated with fatigue, cognitive difficulties, mood disturbance, impaired functioning, and decreased quality of life. Despite the prevalence and seriousness of insomnia in cancer survivors, the problem is underdiagnosed and poorly treated primarily due to the lack of available evidence-based interventions at cancer centers across Canada. To address this issue, Memorial University is joining the University of Ottawa to evaluate the effectiveness of an online treatment program for insomnia using two different programs. We are also looking to see if there are any potential short-term changes in things such as mood and sleep while participating in the online program. We will ask cancer survivors who have completed active treatment, and who have insomnia, to participate. We are hoping to enroll 150 participants with 50 of these individuals coming from Newfoundland and Labrador.

You may be eligible to participate if you meet the following criteria:

  • Have a diagnosis of any type or stage of cancer
  • Completed active treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) at least 1 month prior (with the exception of hormone or maintenance therapy) 
  • Report difficulty falling or staying asleep that impacts your ability to function during the day.
  • Have had sleep problems for at 3 nights per week for the past 3 months
  • Have access to high speed internet. 

What Does This Study Involve?

The  study is a two-group, randomized, controlled, double-blind trial. This means that you are put into a group by chance (like flipping a coin). Neither you, nor the research team can choose the group you will be in. You will have an equal (50:50) chance of being assigned to either of the programs (the intervention program or control program). The purpose of randomization is to ensure that those receiving the study intervention and those who are not are identical in every other respect. If you are randomized to the control program, you will have the opportunity to complete the intervention program after the study ends.


You will be asked to participate in a 1-hour structured interview at the beginning of the study to determine if you experience any problems that often go along with insomnia (e.g. mood problems, other sleep disorders). You will also be asked to complete online questionnaires.

Structured Interview

You will be interviewed over the telephone by the research assistant at Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, our partner site. The interview will take approximately one hour and will contain questions regarding your demographic information, sleep, mood, and anxiety. The interview will be audio-recorded for research purposes, but will not contain any identifying information, and will be stored in a locked cabinet in the research office.


You will be asked to complete a series of online questionnaires at the beginning of the study, daily and weekly throughout the 6 week program, at the end of the program, and at 3 months after the completion of the program. The questionnaires ask about your sleep and other associated factors. Questionnaires given at the beginning of the study, at the end of the program and at 3 months after completion of the program will take approximately 30 minutes to complete. Weekly measures will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Finally, daily questionnaires will take about 5 minutes of your time each day. 

Internet Program

Depending on the group you are randomized to, you will be asked to complete one of two online programs. Each program is 6 weeks long. You will be asked to log onto the website at least once per week daily and spend about 30 minutes total online each week. The research assistant will follow-up with you by email regularly to see how you are doing with the program.

If you are interested in this study, or unsure of whether you are eligible, please contact us at so we can determine help you decide whether participation is right for you.



Primary Investigator at Memorial University:

 Sheila N. Garland, PhD 

(Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science and Division of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine)

Primary Investigator at the University of Ottawa:

 Dr. Cheryl Harris, PhD

( Clinical, Health, & Rehabilitation Psychologist, Psychosocial Oncology Program, Ottawa Regional Cancer Centre)

Supported by a grant from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute