- Cancer Information
- Advanced cancer
- Living with advanced cancer
- Managing symptoms
- Sleeping problems
Getting enough sleep is important for maintaining your energy levels, reducing fatigue and improving mood. Difficulty sleeping may be caused by pain, breathlessness, anxiety or depression. Some medicines, hormonal changes and nausea can also affect sleep. If you already had sleep problems before the cancer spread, these can become worse.
Talk to your doctor about what might be helpful for you. Your medicines may need adjusting or sleep medicines may be an option.
Ways to improve sleep
- Try to do some gentle physical activity every day. This will help you sleep better. Talk to a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist, who can tailor an exercise program, and an occupational therapist, who can suggest equipment to help you move safely.
- Limit or avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and caffeine, and eating spicy food.
- Avoid using technology, such as a television, computer or smartphone, before bed as the blue light tells your body it’s time to wake up.
- Follow a regular routine before bed and set up a calm sleeping environment.
- Keep the room dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature.
- Use relaxation practices, such as listening to gentle music, a recording of rain sounds or Cancer Council’s relaxation recording, before bed.
- If you can’t sleep, get up and sit on the couch until you feel sleepy again.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Prof Nicholas Glasgow, Head, Calvary Palliative and End of Life Care Research Institute, ACT; Kathryn Bennett, Nurse Practitioner, Eastern Palliative Care Association Inc., VIC; Dr Maria Ftanou, Head, Clinical Psychology, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Research Fellow, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Erin Ireland, Legal Counsel, Cancer Council NSW; Nikki Johnston, Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner, Clare Holland House, Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, ACT; Judy Margolis, Consumer; Linda Nolte, Program Director, Advance Care Planning Australia; Kate Reed- Cox, Nurse Practitioner, National Clinical Advisor, Palliative Care Australia; Helena Rodi, Project Manager, Advance Care Planning Australia; Kaitlyn Thorne, Coordinator Cancer Support, 13 11 20, Cancer Council Queensland.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Exercise and cancer
Exercise has many benefits both during and after cancer treatment, helping with side effects, speeding up recovery, and improving quality of life