Insomnia During Cancer Treatment

What is insomnia?

Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night is important for your health and daily functioning. Cancer and cancer treatment can lead to a lack of sleep.

Insomnia is trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia may happen when you first learn you have cancer. You may have problems with sleep during your treatment and for weeks or longer after treatment is done.

Symptoms of insomnia

You may have insomnia if any of the below are true for you:

  • It takes you 30 minutes or longer to fall asleep.

  • You wake up often during the night.

  • It takes 30 minutes or longer to return to sleep after you wake up during the night.

  • You feel sleepy a lot of the time.

Managing insomnia

These tips may help you get better sleep:

  • Go to bed only when you are sleepy and planning to sleep.

  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and comfortable.

  • Use your bed only for sleeping or sex. Do not use it for watching TV, reading, or eating.

  • Don't stay in bed for longer than 15 minutes if you can't fall asleep. Move to another room and stay there until you feel sleepy. Then return to your bed. Do this as many times as needed until you fall asleep.

  • Set an alarm and get up at the same time every day. Do this even if you have not had a good night's sleep. Get up at the same time even on days that you are not working.

  • Do not nap during the day, even if you are tired.

  • Tell your healthcare providers if you use medicines, herbs, or supplements for sleep. This includes melatonin or valerian. 

  • If your healthcare provider prescribes sleep medicine, take it exactly as directed.

  • Don't drink alcohol.

  • Limit caffeine, especially 6 to 8 hours before bedtime.

When to call your healthcare provider

Talk with your healthcare provider if any of the following occur:

  • Insomnia that lasts longer than a few weeks.

  • Needing higher doses of a sleep aid to get to sleep or to stay asleep.

  • Insomnia due to depression, anxiety, or stress.

  • Trouble doing things during the day because you are too sleepy.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Todd Gersten MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2023
© 2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.