A good night's sleep can help you live a long and healthy life!
Trouble sleeping or insomnia is a sleep disorder in which people get too little or poor-quality sleep. Sleeping problems are common for patients with cancer, either during or after therapy. Not all patients inform their healthcare provider about the problem, and many practitioners fail to ask about sleep. This likely occurs for several reasons: problems for sleep may be viewed as a normal reaction to the cancer diagnosis and treatment, or the problem may be viewed as a lesser priority or practitioners may lack the knowledge to diagnose and treat this problem.
People with poor-quality sleep can usually experience symptoms like fatigue, low energy, memory and concentration problems, mood disturbances, irritability and decreased performance in work. Lack of a good night sleep can lead to shorter lifespan and immunosuppression. It is therefore very important for patients to inform their doctors as soon as they realize there is a problem. Understanding and treating the cause of insomnia is an important part of health care and it is part of what is called palliative care or supportive care. Treatment of symptoms such as pain, hot flashes, nausea, and depression may improve the sleeping problem and they should be treated right away. The goal is to achieve a restful sleep, which can improve the immune function and help us live a long and healthy life.
While the potential causes of insomnia are many, the factors that may contribute to its development in cancer patients include certain medications, hospitalization, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy. Restless legs -a common condition in people with cancer that can be caused by low iron in the body- can also be a cause of poor-quality sleep. Other factors include an irregular sleep schedule, excessive amount of time spent in bed, napping, engaging in sleep interfering activities in the bedroom, room temperature, amount of light and noise, snoring, alcohol or drug use, caffeine use, financial and work concerns, family changes, and fears related to the cancer worsening or recurring.
Your doctor may recommend a sleep study or refer you to a sleep specialist in order to find out whether you have another sleep disorder that can be related to poor-quality sleep. Sleep apnea, a short pause or decrease in air flow while breathing during sleep, is such a disorder that can affect your ability to fall or stay asleep.
Medication may help relieve insomnia, but you should use it only with the advice of your doctor if other treatments do not work. Behavioral techniques are usually effective for long-term relief of insomnia.