Cancer Tips

Five tips to fight insomnia

Many people experience trouble falling or staying asleep during cancer treatment. Sometimes even after treatment ends. While there are various factors that may cause insomnia, lack of sleep can be frustrating and affect our daily lives. Keep reading for five tips to fight insomnia.

Impact of insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder which causes one to lose sleep. It can impact people in different ways – you can’t fall asleep, can’t stay asleep or fall asleep/wake up throughout the night. Most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but the quality of sleep is just as important as the hours.

Many things can cause insomnia: treatments and medications; anxiety and stress; hormone changes; illnesses; foods/alcohol; lifestyle choices and more.

Getting good rest is important for your body and mind during cancer treatment. Our bodies need rest to recharge and repair various health systems. Treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, create a lot of upheaval to our body’s normal function so rest is critical to helping the body heal.

Other possible outcomes from lack of sleep:

  • Slower metabolism
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Increased risk of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions
  • Decreases productivity and ability to concentrate
  • Changing moods, energy and concentration can impact social and professional relationships

If you’re going through cancer treatment, be sure to mention to your doctor if you’re experiencing chronic insomnia. Sometimes treatment is the culprit.

For example, when I went through breast cancer treatment a few years ago, I experienced some insomnia in the days following my chemo infusions. The lack of sleep was starting to impact my life. Turns out that one of the drugs I was taking in the evening for three days post-chemo infusion was causing the insomnia. My oncologist had me switch to taking the pills in the morning, which made a big difference. I started sleeping great! In turn, I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally.

So hopefully you get the point that sleep is important to our lives!

Five tips to fight insomnia

Do an activity that relaxes you shortly before bed.

Relaxing activities can be different for people. Find an activity that helps calm your mind, relax your body and ease your emotions as you prepare for bed. Some examples include reading, listening to music, yoga and taking a warm bath.


Having too much on our mind, whether good or bad, can make it difficult to ‘shut off our brains’ to encourage sleep. Writing down these thoughts before bed can help clear the mind to make it easier to fall asleep. I typically take about 10 minutes at night to jot down my thoughts of the day or things I want to focus on the next day. That helps release any lingering thoughts that may keep me up. [Check out my Today I Choose journal.]

Create a good space for sleeping.

A space that creates an atmosphere for good sleep varies from person to person. For instance, my niece likes her room in complete darkness while I have a dim nightlight. I like to sleep cool (but not cold). My friend sleeps with heavy blankets and likes her sleeping space to be very warm. So consider what makes you comfortable. Most importantly, create a place that ‘teaches’ your body it’s time to rest. Comfortable bed, quiet, little light and comfortable for you to relax.


Being active during the day can help tire your body so it’s ready for sleep at night. Be aware that exercise may make you alert and energized for a bit so consider scheduling exercise a few hours before your bedtime. I find that being active outdoors helps me sleep well – the fresh air and exercise feel great too!

Prepare for bed before going to bed.

I mentioned doing a relaxing activity above, but also consider other things that can help prepare you to sleep with ease. Set your coffee maker timer if needed. Pick out the next day’s clothes. Silence your phone calls and messages. Practice meditation. Stretch for a few minutes. Do anything that will help ensure your mind is relaxed and undisturbed before crawling into bed.

Are you ready for a good rest?

I hope these five tips to fight insomnia help you get good rest! What other tips do you have to fight insomnia? Share below.

Leave a comment