Tips for Better Sleep for Patients with Cancer

Posted by Darian Dozier on Jun 30, 2022 12:27:53 PM

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Patients with cancer have many changes to their lives depending on the type of cancer, treatment or management, and overall disability that they may face. In addition to the emotional pull that cancer has on their lives, these patients may also have trouble sleeping.

Sleeping is very important for the body, as that is the time that healing and repair, as well as strength building takes place. Sleep can also help with emotional management and mood regulation throughout the processes of cancer treatment. Here are a few tips for how to manage your sleep if you are a patient with cancer. 

Sleep environment 

Your sleeping environment is extremely important for maintaining good sleep. Depending on the state of your body, you may need different things in order to get a good night's rest. This could be a cooler room, because your medicine makes you hot. Or maybe you need different mattresses and pillows because of pain points you may feel. 

Whatever adjustments you need to make, make them. In addition to those, make sure your room is completely dark and quiet. Use nightlights in case you are a frequent nighttime waker. This way you don't have to turn on all the lights and completely disrupt your sleep. Your room should be very cool, and extremely quiet. Finally, make sure that your room is primarily used for sleep, as being used for anything else can disturb your brains association between sleep and the bedroom. 

Maintain a routine 

Sleep training is not just for babies. Everyone needs sleep training in the form of a routine, as our brains like routines. They use specific sequences as ways to signal that it's time to go to bed. Your routine should consist of certain activities that are relaxing, including taking a bath, reading, journaling, meditating, yoga, and hanging out with friends. Things you should avoid include eating too close to bed, vigorously exercising, and excessive exposure to blue light from technology screens. If you do this every night, then you may find it easier to go to sleep every night.  

Have healthy habits

Sleep is not just about what you do at night, but about what you do throughout the entire day. Food and what you put into your body significantly influences your ability to get to sleep. You should avoid eating within two hours before bed so you are not kept awake by the digestive process.

Restrict liquids, especially alcohol and caffeine, which are both diuretics and will cause you to have to use the bathroom several times a night. Caffeine also is a stimulant and will make it hard to get a good night's rest. 

Foods containing tryptophan are great to eat at night because they are metabolized into serotonin, which can make the body sleepy. Turkey, bread, cereal, and milk all contain tryptophan, and may be good things to eat at night.  

Other helpful hints 

There are other habits and things you can do to help you get a good night's rest. Physical activity can help promote healthy sleep. The best time for most people to exercise is 4-6 hours before bedtime. This makes you tired enough to go to bed, while also giving you time to cool down so you can actually fall asleep. 

Reduce any anxiety that you may take with you to bed by journaling or writing about issues that worry you. Set aside worry time where you can focus on these troubles, and when that time is up, put those thoughts away so you can fall asleep with ease. 

Cancer is a really difficult thing to deal with, and there are not many people that can understand unless they have dealt with cancer. You can interact and network with these individuals at small groups, on online forums, and other gathering places. Reaching out to those who understand you may be a great way to reduce some of the loneliness and despair, or any other negative feelings, that you may have.

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