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Without proper sleep, we can expect a myriad of unwanted consequences like poor concentration, irritability, weight gain, mood and anxiety disturbances, inflammation, immune system deregulation, and a general feeling of being unwell. If you or your loved one has cancer, these consequences can be even more devastating. 

Many people who face a cancer diagnosis find themselves having a difficult time getting the rest they need. Some of the reasons for this include the nighttime onset of worry and anxiety, pain and discomfort, medication side effects, and exacerbation of sleep issues that were present before diagnosis. 

The American Cancer Society recommends these tips for good sleep hygiene:

  • Sleep as much as your body tells you to, but when you’re awake, stay out of bed so your body learns to associate your bed with sleep. 

  • Use a quiet setting for rest at the same time each day.

  • Try to exercise at least once a day. Do this at least two to three hours before bedtime.

  • Avoid caffeine for at least six to eight hours before bedtime—longer if it affects your sleep.

  • Do not drink alcohol in the evening. It can keep you awake as it “wears off.”

  • Take prescribed sleeping medicine or pain relievers at the same time each night.

  • Have someone rub your back or massage your feet before bedtime.

Other tips include:

  • Keep a sleep diary to discover patterns in sleep disturbance.

  • Avoid using screens (TVs, phones, tablets, etc.) in bed. The light from the screens can make it hard for our brains to know that it’s time for sleep.

  • Avoid looking at the clock—it will most likely just frustrate you.

  • Use a relaxation practice like:

    • Deep breathing: Focus on your breaths by taking a deep breath in, holding it for a few seconds, then slowly and fully exhaling.

    • Guided imagery: Close your eyes and imagine being in a comforting and peaceful place. Imagine the sights, smells, and sounds of this place.

    • Progressive muscle relaxation: Gently squeeze, hold for a few seconds, then relax the muscle groups of your body starting with your toes. Slowly move up your body, finishing with your neck and facial muscles.

Sometimes general sleep hygiene is not enough to tackle the chronic issues of insomnia. In these instances, professional guidance is warranted. 

How to get help:

  • Talk with your doctor about the medications you’re on that may be impacting your sleep. 

  • Research shows that cognitive-behavioral therapy is more effective than sleeping medications in the treatment of insomnia.


Source: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/sleep-problems.html


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