Better Sleep, The Mission Possible

When I had my really shitty night’s sleep after the Covid jab, I realised how much better I have been sleeping lately. It also reminded me of how terribly chemo and radiotherapy affected my sleep.

Problems Sleeping During Cancer Treatments

A koala in a tree at sleep.
Image from Pixabay

I first wrote about better sleep in my old blog when I was in the middle of my treatments. In those days it was rare for me to get a decent night’s sleep, and problems sleeping are common in cancer patients.

There are many things that can contribute to poor sleep during cancer treatments including the drugs used to treat cancer. Steroids, for example, can make it difficult to sleep, and the days when I had to take them after each chemo session were always extra terrible.

Other things than can cause sleepless nights are having worries or anxiety (quite natural to worry when you have cancer), physical discomfort (including menopausal night sweats) and sleeping too much during the day.

It’s a vicious circle. You end up sleeping too much during the day because you haven’t slept enough at night. Sometimes I’d force myself to stay awake all day hoping to sleep better.

The struggle to sleep better was real.

And of course there are lots of issues linked to poor sleep.

Image from Pixabay

When I had lots of time on my hands during the cancer treatments, I researched everything and anything to do with cancer among them sleeping problems.

It came as a surprise to me that poor sleep can lead to so many health problems including an increased risk of cancer. And there’s more. It can also increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and obesity.

It can also lower your immunity. Not ideal at any time, but especially not when you have lower immunity because of chemo and radiotherapy already.

Regular lack of sleep also affects mental wellbeing and can lead to depression.

I’m so grateful I’m now sleeping so much better, and I’ve had to make some changes to achieve that.

So what can you do?

I based changes I made on common sense and on recommendations from Macmillan.

  1. I have worked on a regular bedtime routine. Most nights we’re in bed with lights off by ten o’clock. On school mornings I need to be up by six and I like to get my eight hours of sleep. Most weekend nights we’re in bed by the same time. The only downside of this is we’re awake by six even when we could sleep until later. The upside, we get a lot more done.

    Better sleep in a comfortable bed like the dog in the picture.
    Image from Pixabay
  2. Making our bed as comfortable as possible. We have invested in new pillows and that has made a difference. Next step is getting a new mattress as ours isn’t great, but there are so many to choose from. Any recommendations on mattresses – drop them in the comments below.
  3. Not drinking too much water before going to bed. I don’t wish my bladder to wake me up before it’s time to get up.
  4. Avoiding alcohol. When I did my dry January, I noticed how much better I slept early into the month. Since then there have been a few times when I’ve had more than a couple of cans and straight away it affects the quality and quantity of my sleep.
  5. Exercising and being more physically active. This was quite hard to accomplish in lockdown. A run or a walk a day isn’t enough to support better sleep when the rest of the day is sedentary. But since life is now returning to more normal (fingers crossed UK’s roadmap out of lockdown works without a hitch), it’s easier to be more physically active.
  6. Yoga and meditation. On days I haven’t done my yoga in the morning, I like to do a little bedtime yoga and we both like to do a short sleep meditation when we get to bed. I also love yoga nidra – if you haven’t tried, here’s a link to one of my favourites on YouTube.

    Image from Pixabay
  7. Not using my mobile phone just before bed. I’m getting better at this. For Lent, I’m trying not to use my phone after eight o’clock. This has not been a huge success, partly because I keep forgetting, but I’m improving.
  8. Making our bedroom as comfortable as possible. We keep the bedroom cooler than the rest of the flat and have tried to make it darker, too. There’s one factor we can’t do much about, and that’s the noise from outside. We live on a very busy road and the noise is pretty much nonstop. One of the best things about the first lockdown for us was the reduced traffic. It was so much quieter. Now, even though we are not out of lockdown 3 yet, the traffic is pretty much back to normal and so is the noise.

How are you sleeping? 

If you think you are not getting enough sleep and might have a sleep problem, you can do this self-assessment from the NHS.

Until next time!

P.S. I hope you enjoyed the pictures of all the animals sleeping 😁. Scroll down for one more sleepy animal.

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