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Sleep is an opportunity to rest, process and heal. It allows us to be able to participate in activities that are important to us and provides adequate energy for us to live our daily lives.

However, cancer and treatment can have a frustrating impact on sleep. To help understand sleep when living with cancer or going through treatment, we sat down with Cancer Council 13 11 20 Nurse Counsellor, Kirsty Trebilcock who shared her tips on how to maintain your sleep schedule throughout a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“Cancer can contribute to poor or disturbed sleep. Cancer treatments can affect the way that you’re feeling such as pain and nausea or your ability to sleep in a comfortable position after treatment or surgery.”

“Medications can also have a drowsy affect which causes you to sleep during the day and then keep you awake at night.”

Five tips to assist with getting a good night sleep:

1. Aim to go to sleep at the same time every night

The body has its own clock and hormones, going to sleep around the same time each night will implement a pattern or ritual that helps the body adjust to a new clock.

2. Try to limit or not have any stimulants including caffeine too close to the time you go to bed

Ideally stopping caffeine an hour before bed will be beneficial. If you enjoy a hot drink at night herbal tea options or decaf coffee are great alternatives.

3. Implement a wind down time that evokes calm and sends signals to the body that it is time to slow down and relax

This can include stopping intense exercise before bed, turning off screens, or moving to a room with softer/dimer lights. Kirsty recommends starting with a wind down time of 30 minutes before bed and continuing to progress to an hour. Implementing this will signal to the body that it is getting ready to turn off.

4. Do something relaxing that you enjoy

This can include listening to a calming meditation, light yoga stretches, breathing techniques or reading.

5. Speak to your treatment team

Speaking to your treatment team ensures that you have correct and adequate medication to combat any symptoms from cancer and treatment such as pain and nausea that could be affecting you sleep.

Lady With Coffee

Some nights the above tips may not take effect and sleep won’t occur. Kirsty recommends if you are still facing restlessness after an hour to get up. Rather than make yourself busy with a task move to another space that is calm and quiet and then go back to bed when you feel sleepy. Moving from your bed can break the restlessness cycle.

To discuss more about sleep and cancer call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to speak to one of our experienced Cancer Council nurses.

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