A cancer diagnosis and treatment can significantly disrupt your sleep. You may spend hours tossing and turning, trying to force yourself to go to sleep. When you do fall asleep, it’s just for a few hours before you’re wide awake again staring at the ceiling!
Why It’s Hard to Sleep after Diagnosis
Survivors may be dealing with normal psychological distress that can get in the way of falling asleep. Medication can also have disruptive side effects. For many, the culprit could be one’s pattern of thinking about sleep and one’s bedtime routine.
A Better Sleep Routine
We’ve heard advice about keeping the bedroom dark and cool and making sure it’s not too noisy. But some things we do to manage sleep difficulties could backfire, including using electronics to cope with sleeplessness.
TVs, smartphones and laptops all contain blue light that delays your body’s natural release of melatonin, the hormone that helps you fall asleep.
Other common issues include drinking alcohol, eating, smoking or exercising too close to bedtime. Worrying about sleep or what might happen if you don’t fall asleep can also make it hard to fall asleep.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Better Sleep
Simple changes add up to big improvements to your sleep. Some patients benefit from prescription medications to help with sleep. But for many, these drugs don’t actually address underlying cognitive or behavioral sources of the problem.
Behavioral therapies have been proven to be at least as effective as medication at resolving insomnia. The first-line treatment for insomnia is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, and there are online lists of providers who have received specialized training in this therapy. There are also online, self-guided websites you can use from the comfort of your own home.
A good first step is to discuss the sleep issues with your primary care provider or your oncologist. You can ask for a referral to a sleep specialist who can diagnose the problem and formulate a plan specific to you.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to suffer from sleep difficulties. You deserve restful sleep, and with help from appropriate providers, it’s within reach.