There are things you can do to manage sleep problems caused by cancer or cancer treatment. For example, it may help to have a relaxing bedtime routine and to avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours before bed.
If your doctor gave you instructions or medicines to treat sleep problems, be sure to follow them. And check with your doctor before using any over-the-counter medicines to help you sleep.
Be sure to talk to your doctor if your sleep problems get worse, or if you feel very tired during the day.
How can you help yourself sleep well?
Here are some tips that may help you sleep more soundly and wake up feeling more refreshed.
Your sleeping area
- Use your bedroom only for sleeping and sex. A bit of light reading may help you fall asleep. But if it doesn't, do your reading elsewhere in the house. Try not to use your TV, computer, smartphone, or tablet while you are in bed.
- Be sure your bed is big enough to stretch out comfortably, especially if you have a sleep partner.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. Use curtains, blinds, or a sleep mask to block out light. To block out noise, use earplugs, soothing music, or a "white noise" machine.
Your evening and bedtime routine
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. You might want to take a warm shower or bath, or listen to soothing music.
- Go to bed at the same time every night. And get up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired.
What to avoid
- Limit caffeine (coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas) during the day, and don't have any for at least 6 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid drinking alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol can cause you to wake up more often during the night.
- Try not to smoke or use tobacco, especially in the evening. Nicotine can keep you awake.
- Limit naps during the day, especially close to bedtime.
- Avoid lying in bed awake for too long. If you can't fall asleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep within about 20 minutes, get out of bed and go to another room until you feel sleepy.
- Avoid taking medicine right before bed that may keep you awake or make you feel hyper or energized. Your doctor can tell you if your medicine may do this and if you can take it earlier in the day.
If you can't sleep
- Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant scene. Focus on the details and feelings of being in a place that is relaxing.
- Get up and do a quiet or boring activity until you feel sleepy.
- Avoid drinking any liquids before going to bed to help prevent waking up often to use the bathroom.
Current as of: May 4, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Michael Seth Rabin MD - Medical Oncology