Catch Your Zs: Tips for Better Sleep for Cancer Patients

If your sleep patterns have been disrupted during your cancer treatment, you’re not alone. Sleep can be difficult for some patients. The medications prescribed, physical pain, emotional concerns and the strength and courage you try to show loved ones despite your battle can take a toll.

At the end of the day, you may be exhausted yet restless and unable to sleep.

Here are a few ways you can get better sleep:

1.    Keep a sleep diary.

Noting the times you got to bed, fall asleep, wake and get out of bed—especially at the beginning of your journey—will help you keep track of your sleeping patterns. Jot down what time you used to fall asleep before your diagnosis so that you can compare it as you recover. In the meantime, keep a sleep diary and try and get more sleep than you used to get, especially at night. (Also include in your journal the times of the day have side effects like nausea and when you feel like taking a nap so you can inform your doctor.)

2.    Ask your doctor to change your medication times.

Your sleep diary will be helpful when asking your doctor if it’s possible to change the times you take your medication. If you have a drug that makes you feel sleepy in the afternoon and one that keeps you wide awake at night, inform your doctor. Medications work differently for different patients and kinds of cancers, so it’s essential to take note so that your doctors can find what works the best for you. There are sleep and anti-anxiety medications that can be prescribed to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep, but they can also be habit-forming.

3.    Maintain a regular sleep schedule.

As much as possible, maintain a regular sleeping schedule. Turn off any electronic devices at least two hours before sleeping to train your body. Avoid eating and exercising before sleeping, and limit your caffeine around that time. Make sure that your room is dark and comfortable. Black-out curtains will help keep the light out, and a comfortable mattress with cooling features can be helpful. If you need to take a nap, try to limit it to 30 minutes or less. Lots of daytime naps will reset your internal clock, exacerbating your sleep issues.

Cancer is a journey that will tax your emotional and physical strength. During that time, sleep is crucial in your recovery as it promotes the natural healing process. There may be challenges along the way, but they are manageable.

During the more difficult times, always keep in mind that there are people you can talk to; you are not alone in this cancer journey. We are your partner in your fight against cancer.

More than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion so you too, can experience the difference.