Sleep problems: something too many cancer patients experience while going through chemo. (Thank you, steroids.) But sleep is one of the most essential parts of living your best life. If you count yourself among the many experiencing chemo-induced sleep troubles, try these helpful tips, brought to you by our very own Jeannie Moore:
1. Be diligent about your bedtime routine.
Creating a set bedtime and wake-up time can not only help you fall asleep, it can help you stay asleep. Do your best to establish a routine so that your body knows when it's time to wind down.
2. Limit daytime naps.
If you can't imagine giving up your daily nap completely, try to limit your mid-day shuteye to only 20 or 30 minutes. If possible, avoid napping in the late afternoon or early evening so that when you really want to wind down for the night, you're tired enough to do so.
3. Get moving.
Exercising during the day will help you sleep at night. A word to the wise – avoid exercising in the two hours before you head to bed. Exercise is known to increase energy.
4. Avoid large meals before bedtime.
Eating spicy or sugary foods or large meals four to six hours before bedtime can create energy that will ultimately keep you awake.
5. Limit caffeine and alcohol.
Avoid drinking beverages with caffeine (coffee, cola, tea) during the late afternoon and evening – they may make it difficult to fall asleep. Avoid drinking alcohol four to six hours before bedtime. While it may make you sleepy at first, it could disrupt your sleep long-term. If you're thirsty around bedtime, a glass of warm milk or herbal tea (it's caffeine-free!) should do the trick.
6. Increase light exposure during the day.
Natural light does the body good. Make sure you're letting plenty of light into your home or office, and if possible, try to get outside for at least an hour during the daytime. Absorbing some rays will help regulate your sleep-wake cycle – but don’t forget your sunscreen!
7. Make your bed a sleep-only zone.
Avoid making your bed into a place for non-sleep activities, like watching TV, talking on the phone, reading or eating. If you go to bed and can't fall asleep within 15 minutes, don't touch that remote! Get up and go into another room until you feel sleepy, then return to bed.
8. Set up your sleep zone.
Create a cool and comfortable environment in your bedroom: turn lights off (or make them dim), eliminate noise, set a comfortable temperature and make sure your bedding and pillows are fresh and clean.
9. Don't let stress get the best of you.
Living with cancer is undeniably stressful, and this stress, anxiety and worry can affect your sleep if you don't put yourself in a position to manage it. If you need to blow off some steam, try calling the CCA’s free Helpline to chat - it could do you (and your sleep cycle) a world of good! (877) 422-2030
10. Talk to a healthcare professional.
Getting to sleep might seem like a quick fix, but if you feel like you've tried these tips to no avail, talk to your doctor.
Jeannie Moore is one of the co-founders of the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA). Currently, as a patient support navigator, she counsels newly diagnosed patients and their families on what to expect, connects them with useful resources and helps people realize the power they have over their cancer and their destinies.