Objectives Sleep disturbances are a prevalent and troubling symptom of patients with highly stressful illnesses, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and cancer. The aim of this study was to compare the prevalence and incidence of sleep disturbances among persons with HIV, those with cancer, and the general population of Taiwan. Methods A matched cohort study design was used to compare the risk of sleep disturbances among three groups using reimbursement claims recorded in Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD). A total of 14,531 HIV-infected persons were compared with 1493 cancer patients and 1373 general population controls matched by gender and age. Cox proportional hazard regression models were used to test the hazard risk of sleep disturbances among the groups. Results The mean durations between the date of the initial HIV/cancer diagnosis and onset of sleep disturbances of HIV-infected persons, cancer patients, and controls were 1.7, 2.3, and 1.8 years, respectively. The risk of developing sleep disturbances was significantly higher in HIV-infected persons (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] = 3.74, p < 0.001) and cancer patients (AHR = 2.72, p < 0.001) than in controls. HIV-infected persons had a 20% higher risk of sleep disturbances than cancer patients (AHR = 1.20, p < 0.001). Conclusions HIV-infected persons exhibited a higher risk of developing sleep disturbances than cancer patients and general population controls. With efficacious treatments for sleep disturbances, we should focus on training and research programs for health care providers to intervene and treat earlier for the present and future health of cancer patients and HIV-infected persons.
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