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Insomnia and disrupted sleep

Many women experience insomnia and disturbed sleep after breast cancer. People with insomnia or disrupted sleep have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. Disrupted sleep can cause fatigue and tiredness. People’s experience of ‘a good night’s sleep’ varies. People often describe disrupted sleep as having trouble sleeping, dissatisfaction with quality of sleep, and feeling tired during the day.

Not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep can be upsetting and frustrating. Feeling anxious about trying to get enough sleep can add to the stress and difficulty of falling asleep.

Tips to help with disrupted sleep
  • Before bed, avoid caffeine-based drinks, alcohol, and other stimulants like cigarettes. If you’re used to having a bedtime drink, try a non-stimulating herbal tea, like chamomile.
  • Use the bedroom for sleep only – no TV or written work (sex is fine!).
  • Establish a regular bedtime and waking routine – it’s OK to take short naps (no longer than an hour) during the day, but try not to rest for long periods, to avoid not sleeping well at night.
  • Don’t exercise strenuously before bedtime.
  • Only go to bed if you are sleepy.
  • If you can’t sleep, get up and do something else until you feel sleepy again.
  • Try controlled breathing – deep slow abdominal breathing.
  • Consider asking your general practitioner for a short-term mild sedative.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, or you regularly wake up feeling anxious or worried, talk to your doctor. Treatments are available that can help.