Don’t let cancer keep you awake at night

28 September 2015

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When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it’s understandable that it can keep you awake at night.

You may be anxious about your treatment, the outcome and how it will affect you. You could also be worried about your family, work and the emotional and financial challenges you may face. Put simply, it’s normal to feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster and for your sleep to be disturbed.

Experiencing insomnia is common for cancer patients. It affects about one in three people, and is often associated with emotional distress and pain. 1,2 Some people find it hard to get to sleep, whilst others can’t stay asleep.

Why sleep is important

Getting a good night's sleep is beneficial for your mental, physical and emotional health.

It can help you cope better, concentrate more and make it less likely you'll feel fatigued and depressed.

How to sleep better

If you’re struggling with poor sleep, here are some ideas that could help.

Do some exercise – Although this can be hard when you’re not feeling well, physical exercise such as short walks or gentle gardening can help improve your sleep.3

Jot it down – Something on your mind? Write it down. Putting your thoughts on paper can be helpful.

Have a snack – Have a light snack or warm drink before bed, as being hungry can affect sleep. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol.

Develop a bedtime routine ‒ Going to bed and waking up at the same time can help your body develop a sleep rhythm.

Create a calm bedroom – Ensure your mattress and pillows are comfortable, the temperature is right, the room dark and make it a technology-free zone.

Relax before bed – Listen to gentle music, do breathing exercises or try mindfulness meditation.

For more information, visit our cancer centre. Got a question? Ask one of our experts.