I have recently started chemo treatment for cancer and find I am having trouble sleeping. Is this a side effect from the chemo?

According to the National Cancer Institute, a person with cancer may experience sleep disorders because of physical illness, pain, treatment medication, effects of tumor growth (like night sweats, headaches or constipation), hospital stays or emotional stress.

Many cancer patients undergoing treatment experience sleep disorders, and it’s important to discuss your concerns with your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

In diagnosing a sleep disorder, doctors will inquire about medical history, medications, sleep routine, exercise regimen or may even perform a polysomnogram (a test of sleep cycles and stages that measure brain waves, blood pressure, muscle activity, breathing and heart rhythm).

The cause of the sleep disorder must first be identified so proper action will be taken. Many cancer patients already experience fatigue because of treatment; sleep disorders can make it worse, diminish the quality of life for a cancer patient, cause irritability and lack of energy.

Health professionals from the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society suggest the following ways to help avoid or eliminate sleep disorders:

Create a peaceful sleep environment (eliminate noise and lights, use clean sheets, wear loose clothing to bed).

Keep regular sleeping times.

Maintain bowel and bladder habits (do not drink before bedtime and empty the bowel and bladder before bedtime).

Exercise once a day (at least two hours before bedtime).

Avoid heavy, spicy or sugary foods, alcohol, smoking and caffeine at least 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.

Consume a high-protein snack two hours before bedtime.

Avoid discussing fears or other issues that may cause anxiety or restlessness at bedtime. Instead, talk about them during the day.

For more information, contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org, or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

Sleep Problems – National Cancer Institute


Sleep Problems – American Cancer Society


This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.