- Cancer Information
- Living well
- Living well after cancer
- Managing side effects
- Sleeping problems
Getting enough sleep is important for maintaining your energy levels, managing fatigue and improving mood. Difficulty sleeping is common among people who have had cancer. It may be caused by pain, breathlessness, anxiety or depression. Some medicines and hormonal changes can make sleep difficult. If you already had sleep problems before cancer treatment, these can become worse.
Ways to improve sleep
- Get up at the same time each morning and avoid daytime naps.
- Exercise regularly but not right before bed.
- If you smoke, quit – smoking can affect your ability to fall and stay asleep.
- Limit or avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine. Avoid spicy food if it gives you indigestion.
- Set up a pre-sleep routine to help you relax. Try to go to bed around the same time most evenings to establish a stable sleep/wake routine.
- Listen to our relaxation and meditation podcast. Done regularly, these exercises may help you sleep better.
- Put screens (mobile phone, tablet, computer or TV) away an hour before bedtime and avoid using them in the bedroom.
- Keep the bedroom dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature.
- If medicines interfere with your sleep, discuss alternatives with your doctor.
- Speak with your GP about whether counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) would help.
Podcast: Sleep and Cancer
Prof Michael Jefford, Medical Oncologist and Director, Australian Cancer Survivorship Centre, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Lucy Bailey, Nurse Counsellor, Cancer Council Queensland; Philip Bullas, Consumer; Dr Kate Gunn, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow, Department of Rural Health, University of South Australia, SA; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Prof David Joske, Clinical Haematologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Clinical Professor of Medicine, The University of Western Australia, WA; Kim Kerin-Ayres, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Survivorship, Concord Hospital, NSW; Sally Littlewood, Physiotherapist, Seymour Health, VIC; Georgina Lohse, Social Worker, GV Health,VIC; Melanie Moore, Exercise Physiologist and Clinical Supervisor, University of Canberra Cancer Wellness Clinic, ACT; June Savva, Senior Clinician Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics, Monash Cancer Centre, Monash Health, VIC; Dr Elysia Thornton-Benko, Specialist General Practitioner and Research Fellow, University of New South Wales, NSW; Prof Janette Vardy, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre and Professor of Cancer Medicine, The University of Sydney, NSW; Lyndell Wills, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.