Sleep problems include any change in your usual sleeping habits. It could mean you need to sleep more than usual or you might have trouble sleeping, such as having trouble falling or staying asleep.
Sleeping well is important for your physical and mental health. A good night’s sleep not only helps you to think clearly, it also lowers your blood pressure, helps your appetite, and strengthens your immune system.
As many as half of all cancer patients have sleep-related problems.
Unfortunately, sleep problems are common among people being treated for cancer. These problems may be caused by pain, anxiety, worry, depression, night sweats, or the side effects of treatment. See the following tips for healthy sleep and talk with your health care team if you have difficulty sleeping so you can get the help you need.
Signs of Sleep Problems
Common signs of sleep problems include:
- Having trouble falling asleep.
- Waking up often during the night.
- Waking up early in the morning and not falling back to sleep.
- Not feeling rested or still feeling tired after sleeping.
Tips for Healthy Sleep
Work with your health care team to develop a plan to help you sleep well again, and follow these steps to improve your sleep health. Check out this fact sheet and try some of the following tips.
Plan Time to Rest
Take short naps (less than 1 hour) during the day if you are tired. But don’t overdo it. Too much sleep during the day can make it difficult to sleep at night.
Keep a Regular Routine
- Set a routine for going to bed and getting up.
- Avoid caffeine for 6 to 8 hours before you go to bed.
- Exercise at least once a day, no closer than 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
- Drink warm, caffeine-free drinks, such as warm milk or decaf tea, before bedtime.
- Get other tips to help you manage sleep problems.
Talk to Your Health Care Team
- Tell your doctor if you’re having sleep trouble. Feeling tired too much could be a side effect of your medication. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, a mental health professional could help you find out why and what to do.
- Consider using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and relaxation therapies to help you sleep better. For example, a CBT therapist can help you learn to change negative thoughts and beliefs about sleep into positive ones.
Ask Your Caregiver for Help
- Ask your caregiver to help you by keeping the room quiet and comfortable while you sleep, or by assisting in your bedtime routine.
- Learn what else caregivers can do for sleep problems.
For more detailed information on support options, visit Get Support.
Talk to Your Health Care Team
Your health care team needs to know how you’re doing. Be sure to tell them about any changes you notice.
Talk to Family and Friends
Your loved ones want to support you. They can help with activities like housework, running errands, and getting to appointments. Be as specific as possible about the kind of help you need.
Find Peer Support
Talk About Your Concerns
Peer groups offer a welcoming environment to share your feelings and experiences with people who are going through the same things. Use the American Cancer Society’s Resource Search to find a peer group in your area or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for personalized assistance.
Visit the Cancer Survivors Network Online
The Cancer Survivors Network is an online community with more than 40 discussion boards where cancer survivors share their cancer-related experiences, support one another, and exchange practical tips.
NCI Cancer Information Service
Speak to a National Cancer Institute health information specialist by calling 1-800-4-Cancer.
The National Cancer Institute offers live, online assistance through its LiveHelp service.
ACS National Cancer Information Center
Get information and tips from a cancer information specialist at the American Cancer Society by calling 1-800-227-2345. Lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
The American Cancer Society offers live, online assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Select the Live Chat option from any page on cancer.org.
Learn More About Sleep Problems
The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have additional resources to help you understand and cope with sleep problems, including sleep problems and ways to manage sleep problems.