Chemotherapy can be an exhausting and stressful experience for cancer patients. Along with physical discomfort and emotional strain, many patients struggle with sleep issues, such as insomnia, daytime drowsiness, and nightmares. However, getting adequate and restful sleep is crucial for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, as it can boost their immune system, improve their mood, and enhance their overall well-being. In this blog post, we will discuss five essential sleep habits that can help cancer patients manage their chemotherapy-related sleep problems and get the rest they need.
Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Cancer patients on chemotherapy often have fluctuating energy levels and may feel tired at different times of the day. However, it’s important to establish a regular sleep routine and stick to it as much as possible, even on weekends or days off. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, including on days when chemotherapy is scheduled. A consistent sleep schedule helps regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and promotes better sleep quality.
Create a sleep-conducive environment. A comfortable and soothing sleep environment can make a significant difference in cancer patients’ sleep quality. Some tips to create a sleep-friendly bedroom include:
- Keep the room cool, dark, and quiet.
- Invest in a supportive mattress, pillows, and bedding.
- Remove or minimize distractions, such as electronics, pets, or clutter.
- Use relaxing scents, such as lavender, chamomile, or vanilla.
- Consider using a white noise machine or earplugs to block out outside noise.
Practice relaxation techniques. Stress and anxiety can interfere with cancer patients’ sleep, making it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery, can help calm the mind and reduce stress levels. Patients can incorporate these techniques into their bedtime routine or practice them throughout the day as needed.
Avoid stimulating substances and activities. Certain substances and activities can interfere with cancer patients’ sleep quality and quantity. Some examples include:
Caffeine: Avoid or limit caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee, tea, or soda, especially in the afternoon or evening.
- Alcohol: Although alcohol can induce drowsiness, it can disrupt sleep patterns and cause waking up during the night.
- Nicotine: Smoking or using tobacco products can interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Screen time: Exposure to screens, such as smartphones, tablets, or TV, can suppress the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it harder to fall asleep. Patients should avoid or limit screen time at least one hour before bedtime.
Seek medical advice if needed. If cancer patients experience severe or persistent sleep problems despite trying these sleep habits, they should consult their oncologist. The doctor may recommend medications, such as sleeping pills or anti-anxiety drugs, or refer the patient to a sleep specialist for further evaluation and treatment.
In conclusion, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may face various sleep challenges that can impact their physical and emotional well-being. By following these five essential sleep habits, patients can improve their sleep quality, enhance their recovery process, and enhance their overall quality of life.
American Cancer Society. (2022). Sleep and cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/sleep-problems.html
National Cancer Institute. (2022). Sleep disorders (PDQ) – patient version. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/coping/sleep-disorders-pdq
National Sleep Foundation. (2022). Cancer and sleep. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/cancer-and-sleep
Savard, J., Morin, C. M., & Ivers, H. (2015). The association between cancer treatments and sleep disturbances: A systematic review of epidemiological studies. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 23, 54-67. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.11.001
Sleep Education. (2022). Sleep and cancer treatment. Retrieved from https://www.sleepeducation.org/patients/disease-and-conditions/cancer-and-sleep
Sleep Foundation. (2022). Sleep hygiene. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-hygiene
Sleep Foundation. (2022). Relaxation techniques for better sleep. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/relaxation-techniques