Managing your sleep

We see two types of actions you can take to get adequate sleep, depending on the cause. 

The first is to promote better sleep if you are in bed but not able to sleep. Please see our Sleep Disruption handbook for advice about ways to promote better sleep:

  • Self-carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices
  • Managing your sleep environment to promote sleep
  • 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

The second action is to sleep at least seven hours every day. We discuss this here.

Managing your available time for sleep

Simply adjusting the timing of your bedtime may improve your sleep duration.

Example: Going to bed before midnight was associated with longer sleep duration among people with ovarian cancer in the first six months following treatment in a large observational study.1Crane TE, Skiba MB, Donzella S, Thomson CA, Parthasarathy S. 0414 chronotype and sleep among ovarian cancer survivors participating in a lifestyle intervention. Sleep. 2020 April;43(Supplement_1):A158–A159.

Sometimes, such as when caring for a newborn or a sick loved one, you may not have much control over your sleep schedule. Or perhaps your job requires you to work at night or be on call. But for most of us, we have reasonable control over when we climb into bed. If you find that you are not able to get into bed regularly at least seven hours before you need to wake up, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is keeping me up? Is it more important to me than a good night’s sleep?
  • Am I spending too much of my time working? How can I adjust my work schedule?
  • Am I spending too much of my time doing chores such as housecleaning, yard work, laundry, cooking, shopping, and such? What can I let go of or cut back on? What can I get help with? What can I do to increase chore efficiency? 
  • Am I spending too much of my time in recreational activities, whether screen time, hobbies, socializing, or something else? What can I cut back on without impairing my quality of life?
  • Am I spending too much time helping others, to my own detriment? What can I say No to? 
  • Do I delay my bedtime for some other reason? What is it? What can I do to give myself seven to eight uninterrupted hours of sleep every day?

You may not have control over all your time, but you might be able to choose how to allocate an hour or two of your time each day. If you’re ready to make adjustments to give yourself more sleep time, set specific but realistic goals. Track your progress, and celebrate your successes. Over time, you can adjust your sleep patterns.

Managing side effects and symptoms that interfere with sleep

Are cancer symptoms or treatment side effects keeping you from sleeping seven to eight hours every day? See these handbooks for information about managing these side effects and symptoms to regain your sleep and quality of life.

Many more handbooks are being created.

Assessing excess sleep

If you’re getting eight hours of sleep at night but still feel tired when you wake up, your body may be telling you something is out of balance. While sleeping nine hours a night is not unhealthy by itself, it may be a marker of diabetes, hormone imbalances, sleep apnea, depression, or other medical conditions. Finding and addressing underlying conditions may be an important step in improving your overall health and well-being. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I need to talk to my doctor about my sleep?
  • What might be out of balance in my life that is behind my need for more sleep?

Resources

Keep reading

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, 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, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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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, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. 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 and Program Manager

Reviewer

Whitney You, MD, MPH

Research Consultant
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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 Research Consultant

Last update: July 27, 2022

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.

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