Insomnia and Cancer: Why They’re Linked and How to Fix It

The tossing and turning of nights without sleep is common for people with cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, almost 50% of cancer patients live with sleep disturbances. The side effects of treatment – both physical and mental – can have a drastic impact on sleep patterns. As a result, 70% of people living with cancer and 68% of cancer survivors experience insomnia.

A variety of factors can trigger troubled sleep for cancer patients. Chronic pain is a common culprit, with about 75% of cancer patients reporting pains that last longer than three months. The pain may be caused by nerve changes after cancer treatment or surgery, or by the pressure of tumors on an organ or nerve. Trying to sleep through pain can be a major challenge, leading to many sleepless nights.

Cancer treatment and medications can bring on a multitude of side effects, which can also be very disruptive to sleep routines. These can heighten fatigue, create restless leg syndrome, or bring on nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Finding ways to manage these symptoms is a critical step in getting the rest your body needs while fighting cancer.

The psychological impact of cancer can play a major part in derailing sleep patterns. Depression and anxiety are a common result of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Intrusive thoughts around death, money, family and body image are prevalent in the minds of many cancer patients. The overwhelming nature of such intense thoughts can make it difficult to calm the mind in order to achieve peaceful slumber.

Proper sleep hygiene can decrease risks of cancer development. Combating insomnia brought on by life with cancer requires developing healthy sleep habits. Follow the simple tips below to get back on track to a good night’s sleep.

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Cancer patient and survivor's guide to sleeping better

Source: The Mesothelioma Center at

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