Lung cancer and mesothelioma patients have a lot of things on their plates that demand attention. You need to juggle decisions about medical treatment, concerns about insurance and finances and the responsibilities of everyday life that are independent from the illness that you are battling.
As with any problem in life, it helps to tackle all of this after a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, a lot of cancer patients have a hard time getting a full eight hours.
At Mesothelioma Circle, we want to help you maintain all of the good health habits that are necessary to staying vital: physical activity, nutritious diet, adherence to medical treatment and, of course, adequate amounts of sleep.
Rest helps the body fight disease
All human beings need a good dose of sleep to help them stay physically and emotionally fit, but this aspect of health is particularly important for those who are fighting a malignant disease. Experts from the National Cancer Institute say that sleep improves your mental capacity to solve problems, lowers your blood pressure, boosts your body’s ability to heal its tissues, supports your immune system and regulates both your appetite and blood sugar.
What does it mean to get a good night of rest? Sleep involves two stages. REM sleep involves “rapid eye movement,” and is accompanied by a high amount of brain activity, such as dreaming. Non-REM sleep is quiet and restful. One cycle of sleep, which includes both stages, lasts about 90 minutes.
A good night of sleep involves about four to six of these cycles over the course of seven to eight hours. Anything that interrupts and shortens sleep can leave you feeling sleepy and unrested.
Cancer can hurt your ability to sleep
Even healthy people have occasional problems with sleeping. However, the likelihood of this issue is greater for cancer patients. There are several reasons for this, including stress and side effects from cancer therapy, which may include pain and gastrointestinal disturbance. Also, the malignancy itself can disrupt sleep if it causes pain, fever or breathing difficulties.
If you are ever admitted to the hospital, the unfamiliar and noisy environment may also make it hard to sleep.
Don’t take it lying down!
Just because you’re sick doesn’t mean that you have to accept sleep problems as the new normal. If you have a hard time getting rest, discuss your issues with your medical team. They all know how important sleep is to your health, and they want to make sure you are as fit and comfortable as you can be.
You may have to undergo a physical exam and health history assessment. Experts from the American Society of Clinical Oncology suggest that it may be helpful to keep a sleep diary. In here, you can write down descriptions of your sleep problems, activity patterns around bedtime and events that kept you awake. Sharing this with your medical team may help them determine what is bothering you, and what can be done to fix it.
Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society has several tips to promote a good night’s sleep:
- Try to exercise once a day, preferably two to three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine six to eight hours before bedtime. Also, don’t drink anything with alcohol late at night. Instead, choose warm, caffeine-free beverages.
- Keep your bedsheets clean and wrinkle-free for maximum comfort.
- Rest at the same time every night so your body forms a habit.
- Make sure to sleep in the same quiet and peaceful environment every night.
Caregivers can be helpful, too, by:
- Keeping the room quiet.
- Offering gentle massages before bedtime.
- Preparing a light bedtime snack.
- Discussing any problems they observe with your doctor.