- Cancer Information
- Coping with a diagnosis
- Emotions and cancer
- Your coping toolbox
- Improving sleep
Sleep can help your body cope with the physical and emotional demands of cancer treatment. You may find your sleep is affected by worry, pain (e.g. after surgery), nausea, hormonal symptoms (e.g. hot flushes), and some medicines (e.g. steroids). If you aren’t as physically active during treatment, your body may not be as tired and you could find it harder to sleep. Feeling sad or depressed can also make it difficult to sleep well at night.
Ways to improve sleep
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Do some physical activity every day, but avoid exercising two hours before going to bed.
- Put screens (mobile phone, tablet, computer or TV) away an hour before bedtime and do something relaxing – have a bath, read, listen to music or drink a glass of warm milk.
- Avoid coffee, tea, chocolate and cola after early afternoon.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. It may seem to help you relax and fall asleep, but it can keep you in the lighter sleep stages and rob you of deep sleep.
- Don’t eat big meals late at night as indigestion can interfere with sleep.
- Try not to sleep during the day. If you can’t stay awake, limit naps to 30 minutes.
- Use relaxation practices, such as Cancer Council’s relaxation recording, before bed.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
- If you can’t sleep, get up and sit on the couch until you feel sleepy again. Avoid turning on bright lights, TV or reading, as these may wake you up more.
Dr Anna Hughes, Liaison Psychiatrist and Psycho-oncologist, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Mary Bairstow, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Centre, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; Anita Bamert, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Kate Barber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria, VIC; Sally Carveth, Assistant Coordinator, Cancer Support Leader Program, Cancer Council NSW; Matt Featherstone, Consumer; Dr Charlotte Tottman, Clinical Psychologist, Allied Consultant Psychologists and Flinders University, SA; Shirley Witko, Senior Social Worker, Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Learn how mind–body techniques can help us think and feel better, and improve our physical and mental wellbeing