treatment may be all that is needed to relieve sleep problems caused by cancer
or the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. If your doctor has
given you instructions or medicines to treat sleep problems, be sure to follow
them. Check with your doctor before using any
nonprescription medicines to help you sleep.
- Set a bedtime and a time to get up, and then
stay with those times, even on weekends. This will help your body get used to a
regular sleep time.
- Get regular exercise but not during the 3 to 4
hours before your bedtime. Talk with your doctor about how much physical activity is okay for you. Walking, swimming, and yoga may be some good choices.
- Avoid caffeine after noon. This includes coffee,
tea, cola drinks, and chocolate.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. It may
make you sleepy but will probably also wake you up after a short
- Wind down toward the end of the day. Don't take on
problem-solving conversations or challenging activities in the
Make your bedroom a restful place
- Remove distractions such as a clock, telephone,
television, or radio from your bedroom.
- Block out background noise
in your bedroom throughout the night. You may want to use a fan or a white noise machine. Or try using a sleep mask and
earplugs at night.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and
- Reserve the bedroom for sleeping and sexual activities so that you
come to associate it with sleep.
After you are in bed
- After getting into bed, make a conscious effort
to let your muscles relax. Imagine yourself in a peaceful, pleasant scene. For
more information, see the topic Stress Management.
- If you are still
awake after 15 or 20 minutes, get up and read or do a boring task
until you feel drowsy. Don't lie in bed and think about how much sleep you're
missing. Do not watch TV in bed.
If you take medicines
- Review all of your prescription
and nonprescription medicines with your doctor or pharmacist to see
whether the medicines you take could be the cause of your sleep problem.
- If you take steroids (such as prednisone) or other medicines
that may be stimulating, take them as long before bedtime as possible.
There is evidence that therapeutic massage improves sleep for people who are having cancer treatments. Massage may also reduce pain, anxiety, and other symptoms.1
Mind-body therapy, such as meditation, relaxation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, often are helpful for people in cancer treatments. Movement-based mind-body therapy, such as yoga and tai chi, have been found to improve sleep quality.2
Watch for symptoms during home treatment
or more of the following symptoms occur during home treatment, contact your
- Your sleep problem lasts longer than 4
- Your sleep problem becomes worse.
Freeman L (2009). Massage therapy. Mosby's Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Research-Based Approach, 3rd ed., chap. 13, pp. 364–388. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.
Ulbricht CE (2015). Complementary, alternative, and integrative therapies in cancer care. In VT DeVita Jr et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg's Cancer Principles and Practices of Oncology, 10th ed., pp. 2163–2174. Philadelphia: Walters Kluwer.