Sleeping With Cancer Guide

What issues might you experience trying to sleep with cancer?

You may find some of the following symptoms familiar:

  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia is when this is happening at least three nights a week fro more than a month)
  • Waking up frequently during the night and then finding it hard to go back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Not feeling refreshed when you wake up

Why and how does cancer cause these symptoms?

Side effects from the tumour itself and from your medication and treatment may be keeping you up at night. The  things that may often keep you up include:

  • Feeling stressed, anxious or drepressed
  • Suffering from physical discomfort, such as itchy or burning skin, feeling sick, being in pain, headaches, acid reflux, or bladder problems
  • Having hot flushes multiple time a night, and constant sweating
  • Getting used to unfamiliar environments and changes to routines, such as an overnight stay at the hospital


What can you do about these symptoms?

If you are feeling stressed and anxious:

Sleep balms: Try a scented sleep balm. Scents such as lavender and vanilla are known to be relaxing and sleep-inducing

Bath salts: Take a soothing bath before bed, with bath salts or a bath treatment to tackle stress

Essential oils: Aromatherapy oils can promote feelings of calmness and relaxation. Add drops to your bath, use them in an aromatherapy diffuser, or use a spritzer to spray around your bedroom

Colouring books: The activity of colouring has long been acknowledged to be relaxing. When you focus on colouring, it helps distract your mind from worries and stress and helps you relax

Guided relaxation tapes: Listening to a guided meditation soundtrack can also help distract you from day-to-day thoughts and help you drift away

Yoga: Deep breathing in yoga helps calm your mind and relieve physical tension from your body, helping to induce sleep

Calming and stress relief range →


If you are sleeping lightly and are more sensitive to noise and light:

Sleep masks: Sleep masks are an excellent way to provide the perfect dark environment suitable for sleeping.

Earplugs: If these fit comfortably, they can help reduce the amount of times you wake up due to small noises, especially if you are trying to nap during the day when there are outside noises

Rescue remedies: Drops of ‘rescue remedies’ (flower remedies) can help relax the mind and body when you have problems sleeping or wake up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep due to repeated unwanted thoughts

Insomnia range →


If your skin is itchy or burning:

Anti-itch lotions: These will soothe your irritated skin, so you aren’t kept away by itching and scratching. Make sure you use lotions that are specifically formulated to help combat itchiness

Intense moisturisers: These creams can help re-hydrate dry skin and prevent further irritation, and soothe radiation burns and large swathes of angry or inflamed skin, so that you aren’t disturbed by the pain

Itchy skin range →


Good Sleep Behaviours

Finally, some tips good sleeping behaviours to build into a routine that works for you:

  • Avoid eating heavy meals, spicy foods or sugary items close to bedtime
  • Avoid watching TV or using screens before bed, as the light from the screens can delay your sleeping
  • Avoid smoking, and limit your caffeine intake
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, especially 4-8 hours prior to bedtime
  • If you are taking steroids as part of your treatment medications prescribed by your doctor, try to avoid taking these late at night if possible, as they can keep you awake