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
  • Anxiety
  • 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.


  1. Create a bedtime routine
  2. Upgrade your mattress
  3. Take a short nap
  4. Try meditation
  5. Create a peaceful environment
  6. 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.

meditation and exercise may help relive stress and pain and prevent insomnia

Start meditating

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.

succulents are a wonderful healing artifact for your work from home desk space
live in the now make a list of affirmations for positive mindfulness

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.


Get Professional Help

Would you like some helpful tips on living a better life, despite your difficult health issues?

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Ismail Sayeed CEO Medical Director ViOS, Inc.


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


  1. Mushfiqur Rahman

    The time that a chemotherapy patient passes is so much stressful. Anxity, cancer pain, fatigue, mental stress don’t let a patient to have a sound sleep, but during this time, It’s very important to have a calm and stressfree Sleep. Thanks for providing the informations of what a patient should do during chemotherapy session for better sleep.

  2. Md. Fahad Azom

    Chemotherapy is very tough for patients but in many cases it is the only way of helping them to overcome cruel cancer. The necessity of sleep during this hard time of life needs no mentioning. This article is very helpful for cancer patients going through chemotherapy to get a sound sleep. Even normal people who face sleep problems can follow these instructions and get a sound sleep.

    • vioswp

      Thank you for your comment. Many people with underlying health issues such as cancer suffer from ailments that may seem minor. However these daily needs such as a good night’s sleep can have many therapeutic effects during the treatment stage.

  3. Jannatul Ferdous

    I hate to imagine how much they go through on daily basis. Chemotherapies affect their mental and physical health so much. People who are not really strong minded can face serious problems like distancing themselves from others, lose the interest in everything. I wish all the love and prayer to the people who are facing this kind of hardships.

    • vioswp

      Many thanks for your kind words and support. Cancer patients and people with complex chronic diseases need a community-centered approach for their care needs.

  4. Farukul Islam

    I don’t want to imagine a cancer patient’s chemotherapy difficulties. But we have to admit the reality. I don’t know about the situation when a cancer patient takes chemotherapy. But this article gives me a slight idea about its a painful situation. I read through about the strategy to sleep during chemotherapy. Create a bedtime routine, Upgrade mattress Take a short nap, meditation Creating a peaceful environment Practicing mindfulness all is nicely described here.


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