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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer CenterVanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center


Sleep Disruption

Some patients with cancer find that they have trouble sleeping. This can be caused by emotional stress and anxiety, depression, pain, cancer-related symptoms, or treatment drugs. Everyone has occasional nights with sleep difficulties, but if problems with sleep continue, they can contribute to fatigue and emotional distress. For patients with on-going sleep problems, a psychologist can assess the nature of the sleep problem and offer cognitive-behavioral therapy aimed at reducing anxiety and depression, and helping one’s body relearn a healthy sleep habit. Your doctor will also work to reduce any physical problems that make sleep difficult. Medications may also be considered to help you fall asleep and sleep through the night.

What can help?

Here are some things you can do to promote restful sleep:

  • Reduce noise in your bedroom
  • Make sure the room temperature is comfortable
  • Keep your bed as comfortable as possible, and use pillows for supportive positions if needed
  • Make sure your sleep clothes are loose and comfortable
  • Don’t eat or drink before bedtime
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, or limit them to mornings
  • Don’t exercise within 2 hours of bedtime
  • Try eating a high-protein snack (milk, cheese, nuts, turkey or meat) 2 hours before bedtime
  • Try to keep regular hours to get into bed and to wake up
  • If you believe your napping may interfere with nighttime sleep, try limiting naps