8 Steps to a Restful Night's Sleep When You Have Cancer

May 3, 2016
Cat Snyder, ASCO staff

Ever tossed and turned trying to sleep, thinking about your never-ending to do list? Peggy Burhenn, MS, CNS, AOCNS, provides practical tips for getting a restful night’s sleep. As a clinical nurse specialist in geriatric oncology at City of Hope, she often talks to her patients about sleep strategies. This podcast features information on sleep hygiene [3:19], relaxation techniques [8:26], and behavior therapy [10:45].

Tips for Good Sleep

  1. Cut back on caffeine. Do you usually have an afternoon cup of coffee? Avoid it, particularly after lunch, so that you are more likely to be sleepy when it’s time for bed.

  2. Limit alcohol and nicotine. These are stimulants that can make it difficult to fall asleep.

  3. Stay active and get sunlight. Getting exercise and sunshine during the day is important. But try to exercise earlier in the day. Exercise just before bedtime can keep you up.

  4. No screens before bed. Computer and phone screens trick your body into thinking it’s daytime. A good rule is to turn them off 1 to 2 hours before sleep.

  5. Keep the bed for sleep. The bed is meant for sleep and intimacy. Try to keep all other activities, like eating or work, outside the bed. [Suggestion: Create a “no computer or TV in bed” rule.]

  6. Make yourself comfortable. Cold? Grab a blanket. Is it noisy? Earplugs or a white noise machine can help. A sleep mask can also be handy if light is bothersome.

  7. Eat some protein. It’s best not to eat a large, heavy meal close to bedtime. But a little bit of protein, like cheese or peanut butter, can be helpful. 

  8. Have a routine. Having a bedtime rhythm can help your body anticipate sweet sleep! Relax beforehand with a warm bath, reading, meditation, calm music, or slow deep breaths. share on twitter 

If you continue to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, be sure to talk with your doctor about what other options are available to you.

This is a prerecorded audio podcast, and it can be listened to online or downloaded to your computer. A transcript of this podcast is also available. For more information, visit the Cancer.Net podcast page.


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