With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Sleep disturbance and insomnia

Insomnia can be debilitating. It is an experience that makes it difficult, and sometimes what feel likes impossible to sleep. During cancer treatment, rest is essential so the inability to get a good night’s rest can often make the symptoms of cancer worse.

Symptoms of Insomnia:

Sleep is essential for regeneration and healing, so if this is interrupted, you may feel some of these side effects:

  • Low levels of concentration
  • Pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea


Reasons for insomnia during treatment:

  • History- if you are predisposed to a sleep condition, these issues may worsen during treatment
  • Stress – anxiety and stress can play on your mind during quiet times, so just before sleep is an opportune moment for worries to creep in. This worry can cause issues getting off to sleep.
  • Your Room- sleep can be elusive and sometimes if your room isn’t set up the correct way, it can hinder sleep.

Coping with Insomnia;

There are many reasons why insomnia can take effect, however there are some tips on how to combat the condition

  • Routine– set yourself up with a regular bedtime routine. Whether it be meditation before bed or simply washing your face. By having a familiar pattern to follow, you may trick your brain into realising its time for sleep.
  • Set Yourself Up for Sleep– ensure that your bedroom is ready for sleep. Make sure it’s not too harshly lit and the temperature is right so that you can sleep.
  • Avoid Caffeine– by avoiding caffeinated and sugary food and drink before bed, you’re giving your body a chance to relax and as a result, aiding your sleep.
  • Shutdown the Screens– avoid technology an hour before bed. This includes phones, computers, TV screens and anything that emits a blue light source. These kinds of technology are designed to keep you awake and can slow down the sleep process.
  • Be More Active– exerting more physical activity during the day can tire your body out more, so that when it’s time for bed, you’re well and truly ready for sleep.


Difficultly sleeping is one of the most common side-effects of cancer. Sometimes apps, and video resources can be helpful in clearing your mind and aiding your sleep.

  • Untire app -If you are struggling, the Untire App is a free, evidence based mobile app that can help. The Untire App is a very easy app to use, it gives you videos, tutorials and daily tips to help you when struggling with cancer fatigue. There is also loads of information on exercises you can do to increase your energy levels, which you can do at your own pace. Untire also gives you weekly reports on your progress so that you know how you are doing and in which areas you can improve. The app also allows you to communicate  with others struggling with their sleep.
  • Doctor Chatterjee’s podcast – Doctor Chatterjee’s podcast and articles help those struggling to get good quality sleep, or any sleep at all. Here you will find tips on how to sleep as well as how to generally keep up a healthy, and mindful lifestyle.
  • Headspace – Headspace is an app that guides you through meditation and helps you get more, and better sleep while practicing mindful techniques.