Insomnia is considered one of the most serious side effects of cancer.
45% to 50% of all cancer patients deal with disturbances of sleep.
The sleep cycle consists of four stages, going from light to deep sleep and finally REM (Rapid Eye Movement). The sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes. Per SleepDex, “infants spend almost 50% of their time in REM sleep. Adults spend nearly half of sleep time in stage 2, about 20% in REM and the other 30% is divided between the other three stages . ”
Are you getting enough sleep? A typical adult needs about 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Many people say they only need five hours of sleep a night, but researchers have found that this is true of only about 10% of the adult population.
The typical cancer patient has many valid reasons why their sleep is being disturbed.
Causes of sleep disturbances in cancer patients:
- Chemotherapy and other medication side effects
- Lower GI problems such as constipation or diarrhea
- Interruptions of sleep in the hospital
- General fatigue
Are you sleep deprived? Find out. Test your reaction time at Sheep Dash.
Did you know you can go longer without food and water than you can without sleep?
Why do we sleep?
Researchers don’t have all the answers but some reasons are clear. Sleep:
- builds the immune system
- allows the body to repair tissues and cells
- allows memories to be reorganized by the brain
The New York Times, presents several interesting opinions in an article, Why Do We Sleep?
Restoration of the sleep cycle can be done by promoting what is called sleep hygiene– good sleep habits.
Good sleep hygiene per David Claman, M.D. in Everyone’s Guide to Cancer Therapy:
- maintain a regular schedule
- avoid excessive time in bed
- avoid naps
- use your bedroom for sleep and sex ONLY
- don’t watch the clock
- relax before bed
- keep your bedroom relaxing and comfortable
- don’t take your problems to bed with you
- avoid caffeine and alcohol
- don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime
- avoid sleep medications unless absolutely necessary
The USCF Medical Center has even more suggestions for improving your sleep habits.
Oncolink: Insomnia and the Cancer Patient
National Sleep Foundation: Waking America to the Importance of Sleep