Insomnia: the sleepless side effect of cancer treatment

Insomnia is a common side effect of cancer treatment that can persist long after treatment ends. According to studies at Laval University Cancer Research Centre, more than 50 percent of cancer survivors may experience sleep-related problems.

Carol Enderlin studies sleep in breast cancer patients at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. In an interview with Reuters Health, she encourages patients "to be aware of sleep and the importance of sleep, to report changes in sleep to your health care provider before they become severe (and) to not be afraid to bring them up."   

Your health care provider can prescribe sleeping medications that are effective for improving sleep, but there are also behavioral therapies that you can try. According to Coping with Cancer Magazine, the relationship between your daytime activities and sleep at night is called sleep hygiene. Here are some methods that the article suggests for improving your sleep hygiene:

  • Sleep only when you are tired.
  • Go to bed at the same time every evening and wake up at the same time every morning.
  • Increase exercise and light exposure during the day by taking a walk outside.
  • If you are unable to sleep after about 20 minutes, get out of bed and only get back into bed when you are tired.
  • Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco after lunch.
  • Avoid excessive napping. Limit naps to no longer than 30 minutes.
  • Set aside a thinking time earlier in the night to write down all of the things that are on your mind.

If you try these tactics but still struggle to get your necessary shut-eye, please talk with your doctor about other options.

By Josh Kermisch, executive director of WVCI

Posted October 28, 2011




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