Sleep and Cancer - CancerChoices

Sleeping Well at a glance

Sleep disruption is common in people with cancer. Anxiety, stress, and disruptions to your family, finances, and routines can lead to sleep disruption. Side effects and symptoms of cancer and treatments can also interfere with sleep.1Getting Help for Sleep Problems. American Cancer Society. 2020. Viewed January 2, 2022. 

Getting at least seven hours of sleep regularly is one step you can take to improve your resilience and well-being. Adequate and quality sleep may help reduce side effects of treatment, cancer symptoms, and risk of recurrence, and may improve your treatment response. Several medical groups and integrative oncology experts recommend adequate sleep as part of your lifestyle approach to reduce cancer.

Both too little and too much sleep are linked to worse outcomes with cancer, although the outcomes are not always consistent across cancer types. Sleep disturbance is also linked to other physical, mental, and emotional difficulties. If you’re getting too little sleep, you may want to evaluate how you can get to bed earlier or wake up later to give yourself at least seven hours of sleep each night.

If you have enough time in bed but struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, refer to this handbook for guidance on promoting better sleep. 

Sleeping nine or more hours may be needed to make up a sleep deficit, if you are ill, or for young adults. If none of these is true for you, but you regularly sleep nine hours or more a night, you may consider checking if an underlying medical condition is causing you to sleep so much. Mention your sleep schedule and any other symptoms you have to your doctor.

We emphasize that Sleeping Well by itself will not prevent, cure, or control cancer. Like every other therapy or practice included on this website, Sleeping Well is one component of an individualized integrative plan rather than a stand-alone therapy.

Words of guidance

Read some words of inspiration and guidance from Michael Lerner, CancerChoices co-founder and author of Choices in Healing.

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Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher


Whitney You, MD, MPH

Maternal-Fetal Medicine Physician
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Dr. You is a physician specializing in maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) with a specific interest in cancer in the context of pregnancy. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in health services research with a focus in health literacy and received a Master of Public Health.

Whitney You, MD, MPH Maternal-Fetal Medicine Physician

Last update: January 18, 2024

Last full literature review: November 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.