Changes in sleep patterns

Many people find it hard to get to sleep (insomnia) or hard to stay asleep (disrupted sleep) after cancer. This can cause fatigue.  Different people have different ideas of what ‘a good night’s sleep’ is, but people often describe disturbed sleep as having trouble sleeping, having poor-quality 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 such as chamomile.
  • Use the bedroom for sleep only – no TV or written work (sex is fine!).
  • Establish a regular bedtime and waking routine – it’s okay to take short naps (no longer than an hour) during the day, but if you rest for too long, you might not sleep 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 some breathing exercises, such as 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.