Managing Insomnia in Cancer Patients
During chemotherapy treatment, most cancer patients are plagued by fatigue and insomnia. Many patients going through chemotherapy believe they must endure groggy days and sleepless nights, on top of their distressing chemotherapy sessions. But you might be able to manage these problems on your own with the help of these simple practical tips.
There are many possible reasons why cancer patients are not able to enjoy a good night’s rest. Insomnia is a particular complaint when starting a chemotherapy session, possibly due to:
- Cancer pain
- Medication side effects
- Daytime fatigue
- Hormonal imbalance (linked to melatonin levels)
- Mental stress
The following simple practical tips may help guide you, or a loved one who is undergoing chemotherapy and suffering from insomnia, to get some much needed rest – to help their mind and body to recover better.
- Create a bedtime routine
- Upgrade your mattress
- Take a short nap
- Try meditation
- Create a peaceful environment
- Practice mindfulness
Create a bedtime routine
If you’re anything like most people, you are busy finishing your to-do list right up until your head hits the pillow. But even if you’re exhausted, you can find yourself unable to sleep. This is where a good bedtime routine can help relax you and make it easier for you to get some quality rest.
Try to start winding down at the same time every night. A bedtime routine can include making the room darker, rubbing peppermint or eucalyptus-scented lotion on the bottom of your feet, and taking any appropriate pain medications.
Don’t eat anything for about two hours before you go to sleep. This way, your body isn’t burning energy digesting food, and you don’t have to worry about lingering sugar and caffeine.
Try not to use any screens; it’s best to avoid computers, phones, and televisions when you are heading to sleep. This is important to manintain sleep hygiene.
Upgrade your mattress
Did you know you should replace your mattress every 5-10 years? Most of us can’t remember the age of our mattresses, but it has a huge impact on our quality of sleep. Getting a good night’s rest is essential in helping your body heal, so it’s even more important that people battling breast cancer determine if their current mattress provides the necessary support.
Take a short nap
You might be worried that a nap will disrupt your evening sleep, but you probably need the rest. Sleep exhaustion and sleep loss can lead to physical and emotional collapse, poor digestive health, and inflammation. Short naps don’t usually impact your ability to sleep at night, but if you’re going through chemotherapy, you know that nothing is predictable.
Still, try napping no longer than 30 minutes as often as you feel tired. While naps throughout the day can be beneficial, avoid sleeping in the late afternoon as this could make it harder for you to fall asleep at night.
Regular meditation can help ease tension in the body and release worries from the mind. Studies show that meditation and mindfulness increase overall well-being, including better sleep quality, less physical pain, and more energy.
Meditation encourages you to stay present to the moment and to cultivate gratitude — all of which can be incredibly difficult when you have cancer. You can try guided meditation apps, sitting on a chair and focusing on your breath or moving gently with walking meditation.
Create a peaceful environment
It might sound a bit out there, but in order to feel rested and comfortable, your home and your bedroom, especially, should be cleared of any negativity. Not only does this create a more peaceful environment, but it can have a positive effect on how you feel overall.
You can do it yourself or ask your family to help, but make a point to declutter, organize, and thoroughly clean your home. Get rid of things you don’t use, update your lighting, and open the windows to let in fresh air.
Live in the now – Mindfulness
The best way to take a break from worrying is to live in the moment. This could include talking with a religious mentor, finding a counselor, taking that big bucket-list vacation, or simply doing nice things for yourself.
Talking to a friend or family member can also help relieve stress. Most people benefit from a sympathetic ear, even if their listener doesn’t give them a solution.
Disturbed sleep can affect anyone’s quality of life, but for someone undergoing chemotherapy, the stakes are much higher. Buying a new mattress, creating a bedtime routine, napping, imbuing your home with positivity and meditating can all help.
However, it is also possible that your medications need to be adjusted or your chemotherapy needs to be scheduled at a different time. Communicate with your doctor and consider talking with a professional trained in sleep behavior.
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Dr. Ismail Sayeed
Dr. Sayeed is the Medical Director of ViOS, Inc. He is a deeply committed physician entrepreneur & medical blog writer. While building the global infrastructure of the VIOS Clinic, he is dedicated to educate people on the potential of specialist telemedicine for managing chronic diseases.
Read more about him in his author bio