Cancer Education Center

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Thu, Mar 15, 2018 3:29pm

Tips to Achieve a Good Night’s Rest

By Wendy Hanson, MPH, @wendyhanson

shutterstock_380389903As a cancer survivor, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, due to the physical changes caused by cancer or surgery; the side effects of medications; extreme fatigue; or increased stress. You are not alone. Quality sleep is often a struggle for many, which is a concern since sleep plays such an important role in our overall health. Most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to have enough energy to meet the day’s physical and mental demands.

Sleep allows the body time to rest and recoup. If you fall short of the recommendations, the following tips from the American Cancer Society may be able to help you achieve a healthier balance.

  • Sleep as much as your body tells you to.
  • When you’re awake, try to exercise at least once a day. (Avoid activity 2 to 3 hours prior to bedtime).
  • Avoid caffeine for at least 6 to 8 hours before bedtime – longer if it affects your sleep.
  • Do not drink alcohol in the evening. It can keep you awake as it “wears off.”
  • Drink warm, caffeine-free drinks, such as warm milk or decaf tea, before sleep.
  • Use a quiet setting for rest at the same time each day.
  • Take short daytime naps if needed (less than an hour) to avoid interfering with nighttime sleep.
  • Take prescribed sleeping medicine or pain relievers at the same time each night.
  • Have someone rub your back or massage your feet before bedtime.
  • Keep sheets clean, neatly tucked in, and as free from wrinkles as possible.
  • Keep your room quiet and comfortable during sleep.
  • Try eating a light bedtime snack.
  • Talk with your cancer team about relaxation therapy or getting a referral to a hypnotherapist.

In addition to the tips above, try to minimize light prior to bedtime. This includes the light from your computer, television or cell phone – perhaps go as far as to ban these devices from your sleeping environment. Keeping a sleep routine is also recommended. Doing the same thing each night prior to turning in can help prepare your body and mind for sleep. Stick to activities that promote relaxation such as meditation, yoga, journaling or reading.

Lastly, how you handle stress can significantly impact your ability to sleep. While some stress drives us to perform, other stress can leave us worrying and anxious. It’s the latter feelings that keep the mind spinning and sleep at a distance. If you find yourself in this situation, try getting out of bed and doing something that will help you relax or, if you are too warm and cozy, try some focused deep breathing or reach for an interesting read.

Without a good night’s sleep we don’t feel, look or do our best. We are more likely to forget things, have accidents, gain weight, get sick and be irritable. A continued lack of sleep has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, job performance and more. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, now might be the time to make sleep a priority. Just like any other healthy habit, it will require dedication and perseverance. Hopefully the tips above help you achieve this goal!

What strategies do you currently employ to ensure you are well-rested? We would love to learn from you!

I have no trouble falling asleep but wake up at 4am to use the bathroom and can't get back to sleep again. Any suggestions?

@jaler

I have no trouble falling asleep but wake up at 4am to use the bathroom and can't get back to sleep again. Any suggestions?

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Judy, you may wish to consult other members about tips for sleeping through the night and falling back to sleep in the Sleep Health group: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/sleep-health/

Here are a couple of discussions where people are talking about this:
– Insomnia. Nothing seems to help. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/josephene-i-am-having-terrible-insomnia-as-well-nothing-seems-to-help/
– Not sleeping through the night. Looking for non medicated remedies https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/just-dropping-by/

For some of us colorectal cancer survivors sleeping thru the night is made all the more difficult from shortened bowels…w/or w/out colostomy. My body empties 20>30 times per 24 hour period. I cannot eat when heading out…not going to spend my time in the rest room while meetings go on! Sleeping thru the night is more pleasant when we can c=actually sleep thru it! Tea an hour before bed is a great soother for me…as is reading a chapter or two in my current book (I'm a ret reading specialist!) Also petting the cat &/or dog helps sleep all night as it does for them 😉 I am a widow so no hub to wake in the night for conversation!!!

@jaler

I have no trouble falling asleep but wake up at 4am to use the bathroom and can't get back to sleep again. Any suggestions?

Jump to this post

Those unplanned awakenings are difficult; we’re so glad you reached out for you are certainly not alone. You might be doing this already, but if not, you may consider avoiding beverages a few hours leading up to bedtime. Once awake, you might also find yourself immediately anxious and unable to sleep due to your previous experience. If so, you could try to meditate or have a brief guided imagery to walk through to help calm you. If you are unable to fall back asleep within 20 minutes or so, picking up a book for a few minutes, or writing in a journal to get some of those thoughts on paper, may be enough to help you ease back into a restful sleep. Routines and calming environments are important. You may also want to mention your experience to your health care provider during your next visit just to ensure there isn’t an underlying condition playing a role in waking you up overnight. Wishing you peaceful slumber!

Loose nighttime clothes like nightgowns; pajama bottoms can twist and bind in the crotch, even if you think they are 'loose'. If your partner snores, sleep somewhere else.

@readingteacher

For some of us colorectal cancer survivors sleeping thru the night is made all the more difficult from shortened bowels…w/or w/out colostomy. My body empties 20>30 times per 24 hour period. I cannot eat when heading out…not going to spend my time in the rest room while meetings go on! Sleeping thru the night is more pleasant when we can c=actually sleep thru it! Tea an hour before bed is a great soother for me…as is reading a chapter or two in my current book (I'm a ret reading specialist!) Also petting the cat &/or dog helps sleep all night as it does for them 😉 I am a widow so no hub to wake in the night for conversation!!!

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Hi Jo-Ellen, welcome back to Connect, and thanks for the sleeping tips. I would like to invite you to follow the Colorectal Cancer group (https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/colorectal-cancer/) You tips on living with an ostomy would be particularly helpful in this discussion:

– Ostomy: Adapting to life after colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/ostomy-adapting-to-life-after-colostomy-ileostomy-or-urostomy/

I know for some people, animals can interrupt sleep especially when they want to be fed early in the morning 😉 Seems like your pets are therapeutic for you and help promote sleep. Do you have both a cat and dog?

@joant10

Loose nighttime clothes like nightgowns; pajama bottoms can twist and bind in the crotch, even if you think they are 'loose'. If your partner snores, sleep somewhere else.

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Good tips, Joan.
I'd hate to give up my bed, so I think I would vote for my snoring partner to sleep elsewhere. Or perhaps the partner should do a sleep test. They might need a CPAP machine.

Do you suggest more form fitting pyjamas?

@jaler

I have no trouble falling asleep but wake up at 4am to use the bathroom and can't get back to sleep again. Any suggestions?

Jump to this post

If I reduce liquids to little or nothing dehydration can occur. nasty in its own right. I am 72 and lived this way since 1974 when 1st surgeries began and took so much gut with them –hopefully to stop Crohn's-now rectal cancer came on board..loose both ends of the spectrum! ostomy not pleasant when it fills and empties while asleep! making the bed at 2:30 am unhappy! If I do not get enough liquid within me also a prob…dehydration and look to the skin recognizable. As a retired reading specialist reading is what I do..most of the time and enjoy it. Used to do crewel work but fingers (I'm 71) gnarl up sometimes and that's not so comfy

@readingteacher

For some of us colorectal cancer survivors sleeping thru the night is made all the more difficult from shortened bowels…w/or w/out colostomy. My body empties 20>30 times per 24 hour period. I cannot eat when heading out…not going to spend my time in the rest room while meetings go on! Sleeping thru the night is more pleasant when we can c=actually sleep thru it! Tea an hour before bed is a great soother for me…as is reading a chapter or two in my current book (I'm a ret reading specialist!) Also petting the cat &/or dog helps sleep all night as it does for them 😉 I am a widow so no hub to wake in the night for conversation!!!

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My animals just like being with me 24/7 if they could. Sometimes the Bulldog goes in to work with me..she's a real greeter! Paw up and her best look! The cat is nearly 18. Fast though when he makes his rounds of the house 😉

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