Managing side effects, All

Can’t sleep…

how to overcome cancer fatigue?

So it is late at night, and I am in the grips of insomnia – once again I simply can’t sleep. A bit more about my day – in many ways a day like any other – so why am I climbing the walls when I should be counting sheep?

Well, today was the day that I put the Lions, Tigers & Bears website live – eek! It was also the day when I went back to the hospital to get my boobs checked again, because despite having been told I am now cancer-free, I am now paranoid about it returning.

Having felt a lump last week it put me in a right old tizz of doubt and worry, so back to the hospital I trot. These things may not sound like much, but trust me, there is at least a week’s worth of sleepless nights right there.

I’m glad to say that after a couple of hours with the fabulous NHS staff, who squeezed me in to check everything out, it was established that my boobs are just fine.

So why, why, why am I sat here wide awake when I should have been asleep in my bed several hours ago!?!

Can't sleep...


This has been one of my most prevalent side effects of cancer and the treatment. I’m about 50% nocturnal these days. At least 3 days a week, I find myself wide awake in the wee hours of the morning. My family have joked that I am regressing to my teen years. In actual fact, my teenage daughters sleep far more than I do.

I know that I’m not alone with this, the cancer forums are littered with posts that are at their most active at about 3am.  Lots of posts entitled “Can’t sleep” or “Awake”. I personally feel like I have pumped my body with enough drugs over the past 8 months, so getting prescription sleeping tablets isn’t an option for me, although I know that many people go down this route, and I totally understand why.

For myself, I have been looking at natural alternatives.

Can't sleep...

Options to help beat insomnia

So, natural solutions that I have/will be trying…

  • Valerian is a traditional herbal remedy to help relax and induce sleep, proven in numerous studies, although about 10% of people react in the opposite way! So use with caution!
  • Magnesium deficiency is common in cancer patients both from treatment and the stress and anxiety of the situation. Being deficient in this vital mineral can lead to chronic insomnia and restless sleep. Research has proven that magnesium supplements can help aid deep, restorative sleep, reduced stress and elevated mood. Take 30 mins before bed.
  • Hot milk & honey/Camomile tea – I can’t say I’ve tried either of these as I’m not a fan of either, but so many people swear by both that I have to include them on the list
  • Lavender has been proven to help sleep, whether you go for a pillow spray, essential oil diffuser or pop it in your bath
  • Yoga or Meditation – 10 minutes before bed focused on breathing (not dynamic yoga!)
  • Reducing screen time before bed as the blue light emitted from screens can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythms. It is recommended to switch off all screens at least one hour before you attempt sleep
  • Writing a journal to get those thoughts onto paper instead of buzzing around your head
  • Reading before bed – I have found this works for me until I get a book that I just cant put down LOL
  • Establishing a regular bed-time routine
  • Ditch the caffeine – remember caffeine is in more than just coffee including tea, fizzy drinks and many painkillers. As a stimulant it is best to avoid after lunch if you are struggling to sleep at night
  • Be careful what time you take your steroids – the steroids they give us to help keep us functioning during chemo play havoc with the body clock! If you want to avoid a 3am party for one, check the instructions about when to take your steroids and set an alarm to ensure you don’t miss the cut off

Check out our managing side effects shop, filled with hand-selected products to help you manage the common side effects of chemotherapy and cancer – including insomnia and restless sleep.

Alternatively, let me know what works for you in the comments section

For me, for now, it is (finally) time for bed. Wish me luck!

N’night xx

Can't sleep...

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2 thoughts on “Can’t sleep…

  1. helen chand says:

    I do a breathing technique. I did do a blog about. Saw a clip one day with the gorgeous Dr Hilary Jones suggesting it.
    In for 4 seconds sharply and hold for 7seconds, then breathe out for 8 seconds.Do this 3 times and you should be asleep within 10 minutes. I do sometimes have to repeat more but not sure that is adviseable LOL! Probably lack of oxygen!

    1. Sounds great. Having literally been awake now for over 24 hours, I shall give this a go…

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