- 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, nausea, menopause symptoms (e.g. hot flushes) and some medicines (e.g. steroids). If you are less 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
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every day.
- Do some physical activity each day, but avoid vigorous exercise just before bed.
- Put screens away an hour before bedtime and do something relaxing – have a bath, read or listen to music.
- Avoid coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and energy drinks after early afternoon.
- Avoid alcohol before bed. It may seem to help you relax and fall asleep, but it can keep you from getting quality sleep and feeling rested when you wake.
- Eat medium-sized meals in the evening. Your sleep can be disrupted if you go to bed hungry, but also if you have indigestion after eating a big meal.
- Limit naps to 10-30 minutes and take them before 3pm.
- Use relaxation practices before bed. Our Finding Calm During Cancer podcast has a sleep track.
- Keep your bedroom as dark, cool and quiet as possible.
- If you can’t sleep, get up and sit on the couch until you feel sleepy. Keep lights low and try doing something boring that you can easily put down when you are ready to sleep again.
Podcast: Sleep and Cancer
A/Prof Anne Burke, Co-Director, Psychology and Allied Health Lead, Cancer, Central Adelaide Local Health Network and The University of Adelaide, SA; Hannah Chen, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland; Hazel Everett, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Services, St John of God Subiaco Hospital, WA; Shona Gates, Senior Social Worker, North West Cancer Centre, TAS; Dr Jemma Gilchrist, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Mind My Health and Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead, NSW; Sandra Hodge, Consumer; Dr Michael Murphy, Psychiatrist and Clinician Researcher, Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Alesha Thai, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Alan White, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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