We all have trouble getting a good night's sleep at one time or another, but if you've been diagnosed with cancer or are undergoing treatment, it can be even more difficult. A study by scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that three-quarters of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy suffer insomnia or sleep disorders.
There are many reasons behind a sleep disorder.
It could be the various drugs prescribed as part of your treatment regimen are making you feel drowsy during the day. But if you nap too regularly in the daytime, you may find difficult to fall asleep at night.
Some drugs can make you feel nauseous, which doesn’t help when you’re trying to nod off. Whereas other medications such as steroids can make you feel agitated and overstimulated.
And then there’s the worry and stress caused by cancer: just when your body is trying to rest, your mind is going into overdrive
Whatever the reasons for your sleeplessness, it’s important to do everything you can to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep is needed for your entire wellbeing – it gives you the strength to refresh physically and mentally, repair, fight, endure treatment and heal properly. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may experience fatigue, lack of energy, mood swings and problems with your memory and concentration.
We searched the internet for some top tips from the experts to help you get a good night’s sleep:
First the don’ts:
- Don’t over nap in the daytime
Sleeping too long during the day will mean you’ll find it more difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep at night. If you do need to take a nap, set your alarm and give yourself no more than an hour
- Don’t exercise just before bedtime
Whilst mild exercise can help aid sleep, but it is best to do it in the daytime leaving your body time to relax and unwind.
- Don’t eat just before going to bed
It may keep you awake or wake you up. Allow your body time to digest your food first. If you are hungry and need to eat try a small healthy snack instead.
- Don’t look at a computer screen or check your smartphone messages just before sleep
Melatonin is the hormone in your body that helps you sleep. These devices emit light in short wavelengths, which can suppress the release of melatonin in your body. This means you’ll find it far more difficult to get to sleep.
- Don’t drink too much caffeine
Especially in the evenings after 6 pm as the effects of caffeine take hours to wear off. Instead, if you want a hot drink in the evening or before bed opt for a caffeine-free drink such as chamomile tea or hot milk.
Now the Dos:
- Do talk with your health care team
They can help you identify just what might be keeping you from getting a good night's sleep. They may advise a change to your existing medication or prescribe new medication to help you sleep. For instance, if you’re taking steroids and having trouble sleeping, you may need to take them in the morning rather than at night.
- Do maintain a bedtime routine
Try going to bed at the same time each night and setting your alarm for the same time each morning. Having a consistent bedtime becomes a memory habit, so your body knows when it’s time for bed making it easier to switch off.
- Do turn your bedroom into a haven of calm
Keep the room dark, quiet and at a cool temperature, these things are conducive for sleep.
- Do listen to soothing music, read a book or do something you find calming
According to a study conducted in 2009 by researchers at the University of Sussex, opening a book or doing something soothing before you go to bed can help you cope with insomnia. In particular, the study showed that six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68%, clearing the mind and preparing the body for sleep
- Do breathing exercises to calm your mind into a meditative state
There are plenty of online videos and apps with different techniques. Click here to check out our blog on meditation.
If you’ve experienced insomnia or other sleep-related issues and have found helpful ways of alleviating the problem, please join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group and share your tips with over 7000 members.
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