Disruption of a normal sleep pattern is common after a
diagnosis of cancer. There are a lot of things to worry about, the diagnosis,
the treatment, how you will feel, financial and family issues and it is normal
to wake up thinking about them at night. If this is associated with depressive
thoughts, particularly waking in the early hours and is persistent it may
be worth talking to your GP as this as it may be signs of early depression.
Apart from anxiety there are also several reasons why sleeplessness may be a
problem during cancer therapies and these may be amenable to specific strategies
Discontinuing or reduce the use of caffeine (tea,
coffee, energy drinks) after 4pm and preferably after 2pm. If
this does not help, try cutting coffee altogether.
Alcohol may make you initially sleepy but often
you then have a restless night waking throughout the night -try giving
up for 2 weeks to see if this helps
Nicotine is a stimulant which can keep you awake
so avoid smoking at night.
Heavy smokers actually suffer withdrawal of
nicotine at night so they wake up anxious and alert
Avoid drinking large amounts of liquids prior to
bedtime - it fills the stomach and causes you to have to pass water
Avoid hunger or excessive eating prior to bedtime
Avoid taking daytime naps unless essential.
Establish a regular pattern of sleeping - set a
time to go to bed & when to wake up.
Sleep only as much as you need to feel rested.
Go to bed only when you are sleepy
If you are unable to fall asleep within 20 - 30
minutes leave the bed and perform a relaxing activity until drowsy and
ready for sleep (avoid light - see below).
It is important not to expose yourself to bright
or artificial lights at night even from smart phones or computers.
This interferes with the melatonin pathway - the body thinking it's
day time - this not only disturbs sleep but if you have regular
exposure to light at night it upsets the normal circadian rhythm.
Studies have linked night time exposure to light to an increased risk
Exercise regularly but do not exercise within 2
hours of bedtime.
Engage in a quiet relaxing activity before
Do not watch exciting TV programs or read
stimulating books in bed last thing at - read something boring!
Avoid temperature extremes, noise and light when
Ensure room is dark - use black out curtains if
Try to ensure the room is quite - wear ear plugs