Getting a healthy amount of sleep is a pivotal part of our daily lives. Unfortunately for those with sleep problems such as insomnia, it’s hard to get the recommended 7 to 9 hours—especially for those with a cancer diagnosis. The physical and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment often lead to a disruption in sleeping patterns, which can even follow you into survivorship. In fact, sleep problems such as insomnia affect 70% of cancer patients and 68% of cancer survivors.
Chronic pain is a major symptom affecting those with cancer, with about 75% of patients experiencing this. Unfortunately, this kind of pain can be uncomfortable and disrupt your normal sleep schedule, leading to a vicious cycle of sleeping problems. Side effects from cancer treatment can also make it hard for cancer patients to get an adequate amount of sleep. For example, fatigue is a symptom many patients face and this daily fatigue and tiredness can disrupt the normal sleep schedule and increase the likelihood of developing sleep problems.
Aside from the physical side effects of cancer, the psychological effects also have a great impact on sleep. Stress, anxiety and depression are common mental health issues faced by patients. According to the National Cancer Institute, 15 to 25% of cancer patients experience depression.
On the contrary, some studies have shown that lack of sleep and interrupted sleep patterns can increase the risk of developing cancer. For those with existing medical conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea, they’re 15% more likely to develop cancer. Your lifestyle can also play a huge part in the development of cancer. Those in a job involving shift work develop irregular sleeping habits due to their work schedule which can throw off the body’s biological clock and disrupt a normal rest-wake cycle.
Though there’s no getting around the side effects and symptoms cancer can bring, there are some strategies you can take to ensure you maintain healthy sleep hygiene. Healthy sleep hygiene is important for patients, as these sleep problems can follow you into survivorship. Even if you’re not a cancer patient, practicing healthy sleep hygiene can help lower your risk of developing cancer and help you have an overall healthy lifestyle. To minimize your chances of developing sleep problems and help you avoid those restless nights, follow the sleep tips for cancer patients in the visual guide below: