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How Cancer Impacts Sleep & What to Do About It

In addition to other factors, like proper nutrition and regular exercise, sleep is extremely important to our overall health. When something else is going on with your body that affects your overall health, such as a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s even more important to get enough rest.

It's not uncommon for cancer patients to report sleep disturbances, such as insomnia. If getting the rest your body needs proves difficult, understanding the reasons sleep may be difficult is the first step in moving towards a solution. So, why is it that cancer patients struggle to sleep in the first place?

Stress & Anxiety

If you've ever had an important appointment or scheduled test, you may have experienced difficulty sleeping the night before. It’s normal for our minds to race when we are anxious or worried. Cancer patients have a variety of stressors that may affect their quality of sleep. If anxiety or depression is the underlying cause of your sleeplessness, your physician may prescribe an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication to help you sleep. Journaling and meditation are great natural ways to combat anxiety and common sleep problems.

Symptoms from Treatment

You may experience symptoms from treatment that impact your sleep. Depending on the intensity of the symptoms and their duration, you may want to speak to your care team. They may have some tips and ideas for how to specifically combat the symptoms, allowing more time for restful sleep. It's also important to create the right sleep environment to help you feel as comfortable as possible. Try layering pillows, turning on a fan, or playing soft music.


Guests or other family members may cause disruptions when you're trying to rest. It's important to set boundaries and to communicate your needs. External noise can cause frequent awakenings, and these disruptions have been tied to reduced levels of both sleep quality and overall health. If outside noise is beyond your control, a white noise machine may help drown the sounds out. You can also set up speakers to play comforting music or nature sounds, which many people report helps them to fall asleep.


Due to constant fatigue and disruptions to your body's normal sleep cycle, you may find it challenging to get to sleep or stay asleep. If the suggestions above do not make a noticeable difference, you may want to explore targeted therapies to help you rest. For additional ideas, click here.

Sleep deprivation not only makes you feel terrible but it might also influence how well your body fights cancer. Sleep is crucial to your body's healing process and should be a priority. If you can't sleep, speak to your care team to determine steps that can be taken to ensure you rest peacefully.

Looking for support during your journey with breast cancer? Hope for the Journey is here for you. Please don't hesitate to contact us.

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