- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Living well after cancer
- Coping with side effects
- 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.
Dr Haryana Dhillon, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Medical Psychology & Evidence-based Decision-making, School of Psychology, University of Sydney, NSW; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Jessica Barbon, Dietitian, Southern Adelaide Health Network, SA; Dr Anna Burger, Liaison Psychiatrist and Senior Staff Specialist, Psycho-oncology Clinic, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, ACT; Elizabeth Dillon, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Prof Paul Glare, Chair in Pain Medicineand Director, Pain Management Research Institute, University of Sydney, NSW; Nico le Kinnane, Nurse Coordinator, Gynaecology Services, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Amanda Piper, Manager, Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Kyle Smith, Exercise Medicine Research Institute, Edith Cowan University, WA; Aaron Tan, Consumer; Dr Kate Webber, Medical Oncologist and Research Director, National Centre for Cancer Survivorship, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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Life after cancer treatment
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Cancer Council Online Community
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ENRICH – a free healthy lifestyle program
A face-to-face exercise and nutrition program for cancer survivors