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Sleeping Problems

You may be wondering about not getting enough sleep.  Here is some information to help you understand the important part that sleep plays in cancer care. 

Strategies to help with sleep - Patient Handout

‎Sleeping problems are also called insomnia and refers to people having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up unrefreshed. Insomnia may be new to you or you may have had problems prior to your cancer diagnosis.  Insomnia may be causing stress and affecting your day to day functioning. Getting enough sleep during and after cancer treatment is important to help maintain your energy, focus and can aid in cancer recovery.

Your cancer care team will want to know about any new sleep problems you are having. Your healthcare team may want to:

  • adjust your treatment plan
  • assess and treat any other underlying medical disorders
  • prescribe a medication
  • refer you to another healthcare professional such as a counsellor or sleep specialist
  • recommend ways to cope with stress

What you can do

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do my sleep problems occur on average of three or more times per week (over the last month)?
  • Do my sleep problems negatively affect my daytime functioning or quality of life?

Before bed, do:

  • engage in winding-down relaxing activities (i.e.: music, warm bath, journal)
  • find a way to let go of worries and fears (seeEmotional Support Resources)

Before bed, do not:

  • take stimulants (e.g.: caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or red ginseng)
  • eat heavy, sugary or spicy foods
  • drink too much fluid (no more than 1 cup/4hrs before bed)
  • go to bed hungry
  • participate in vigorous exercise 
  • watch TV or use computer (stop one hour before bed)

Talk your doctor about your options and ...

  • talk to a counsellor about non-drug strategies and emotional support and/or;
  • join a support group for social interaction, relaxation and/or sleep training and/or;
  • talk to a pharmacist about over-the-counter sleep aids and medications to help with sleep

Recommended websites: Sleeping Problems Websites


BC Cancer Agency Library pathfinder: Fatigue and Sleep Pathfinder


BCCA pamphlets: see "Strategies to Help with Sleep" under Emotional Support webpage


Symptom management guidelines: Sleep-Wake Disturbances 

Revised Aug 2015


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