Sleep disturbance

Difficulty sleeping is common among people who have had cancer. Sleep can be affected by symptoms related to cancer treatment, such as pain, breathlessness, anxiety or depression. Some medicines can also disrupt sleep (e.g. hormone therapy for breast cancer). People who have pre-existing sleep problems can have additional sleep difficulties after their cancer treatment. If you have ongoing problems with sleeping, talk to your GP.

Managing sleep disturbance

  • Get up at the same time each morning, including weekends.
  • Exercise regularly but not right before bed.
  • Limit or cut out the use of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and spicy food.
  • Avoid daytime naps.
  • Only go to bed when tired.
  • Set up a pre-sleep routine to help you relax.
  • Check out our relaxation and meditation audio tracks. Done regularly, these exercises may help you sleep.
  • Avoid using electronic devices such as computers or smartphones before bed or in the bedroom.
  • Ensure the room is dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature.
  • If you wake up during the night, get up for a while.
  • If medicines interfere with your sleep, discuss alternatives with your doctor.
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in addressing sleep problems. Ask your GP for more information.

Listen to a podcast on Sleep and Cancer

This information was last reviewed in April 2018
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