Insomnia, or the inability to fall/stay asleep, can be a side effect of your treatment for cancer. The good news is that there are many options to help insomnia.

Insomnia Coping Strategies:

  • Try not to nap. Taking Gleevec, Sutent and other drugs to treat your GIST, can make you feel tired since it makes your body weak, and the drugs can just make you tired in general. So try to stay awake as much as possible and not nap during the day so that you can sleep for a longer period at night.
  • Certain medications that are used to combat infections and the side effects of treatment (nausea, pain, depression, etc.) can stimulate you. Try to take these medications before five in the afternoon. This way they won’t keep you up at night.
  • Make the room dark.
  • Do not do any physical activity two hours or less before you plan to go to sleep, as exercise wakes up your body.
  • Turn any illuminated objects, such as a clock, away from you to avoid the light.
  • Keep a constant sleep schedule. This helps because your body gets used to the routine and comes dependent upon the schedule.
  • Exercise during the day. Exercising during the day, if cleared by your physician, will help tire you out and get you ready for bed later.
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Caffeine creates wakefulness, so taking it out of your diet may help you sleep better.
  • Relaxation techniques such as imagery, meditation, hypnosis and distraction can help. Progressive muscle relaxation involves systematically tensing and relaxing muscles to alleviate tension. In ocular relaxation, move eyes in various directions holding each one for seven seconds while in between focusing on another sensation for forty seconds.
  • Avoid tobacco.
  • Stimulus control – Use the bed only for going to bed and for NO other activity. This will help to prepare the mind that it is sleep time. A bedtime ritual can also help your mind recognize that it is bedtime and should help you fall asleep sooner.
  • Don’t eat a large meal before bed. This may cause you to stay awake due to digestion and other side effects that can occur such as nausea or heartburn.
  • Eating to reduce diarrhea. If diarrhea is a problem, eating a high-protein, low-fiber snack before bedtime may help control diarrhea during the night.

Discussing your inability to sleep with your doctor is very important. Many people undergoing cancer therapy have a large amount of pain, anxiety, and fear about having cancer. Your doctor can prescribe something for you to alleviate your pain or reduce your anxiety to help you get to sleep. Being well-rested is important in the fight against cancer and reducing other side effects of treatment.

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