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Sleep and Cancer: What You Need to Know If You’re Having Trouble Sleeping

Read Time: 3 minutes

Woman lies in bed, covering face, while clock shows 3:41am

People with cancer may have trouble sleeping for many reasons:

  • The stress of diagnosis
  • Pain
  • Side effects from treatments or drugs
  • Being in the hospital

Tips for managing insomnia

The good news is there are ways to deal with insomnia:

  • Go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up at the same time each morning.
  • Avoid napping or limit naps to 30 minutes or less during the day.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Spend some time outdoors in the sunlight every day. (Remember to protect your skin with clothing and sunscreen.)
  • Try to keep your eyes closed when in bed, even when you’re not sleeping.
  • Practice mindfulness activities such as mediation, guided relaxation, and breathing techniques.
  • Get acupuncture or a massage to help you relax.

Making changes in your bedroom can also help you sleep better:

  • Use curtains to block light from your bedroom.
  • Make sure your bedroom is quiet and at a comfortable temperature.
  • Put the alarm clock somewhere you can’t look at it.
  • Stop using electronic devices an hour before bed.
  • Use your bed only for sleep. Do not lie in bed and watch TV or read.

What to do if you still can’t sleep

If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your health care team. They can help. Your doctor may prescribe a sleep medication for a short time. If pain keeps you awake, pain medicine may also help you sleep.

Over-the-counter medicines and herbal remedies may interfere with your cancer treatments. Do not use them without talking to your health care team first.

The social workers on the Patient and Family Support team can teach meditation and relaxation skills to help you sleep better. They can also help you cope with negative thoughts and emotions. To learn more or make an appointment, call 801-213-5699.

The Linda B. and Robert B. Wiggins Wellness and Integrative Health Center offers acupuncture and massage. To learn more or make an appointment, call 801-587-4585.

Cancer touches all of us.