When counting sheep doesn’t work
Making small lifestyle changes during the day and in the evening can help improve the quality of sleep you get at night. Here are some tips:
- Stick to a routine. That means waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day, even on weekends. Following a predictable routine at night before bed may also help. For instance, try a relaxing bath or cup of decaffeinated tea followed by 30 minutes of light reading.
- Exercise in the morning. If your doctor has given the go-ahead to be active, do so early in the day. Exercising too close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Avoid heavy evening meals. If your body has to focus on digesting food, it may not be able to fall asleep – or stay asleep – as easily. If you’re hungry after dinner, have a light snack at least an hour before bedtime.
- Find a new spot for work – and naps. Dedicating your bedroom to nighttime sleep only can help make nights more restful. Try napping during the day on a comfortable sofa or bed in a spare room. Set up a workstation in another room in the house, and keep computers out of the bedroom.
- Cut down on alcohol and caffeine. It’s a good idea to limit your overall intake. But it’s even more important to avoid both of these for four to six hours before bed. If you usually need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, limiting all fluids for a couple of hours before bed may stop you from having to wake up.
- Do something relaxing. Stress-reducing activities like yoga, listening to music and even writing in a journal can help you unwind before bed.
- Keep the room cool, quiet and dark. A too-warm room can make restful sleep difficult. Use fans, open windows and cover up with lighter sheets and blankets – or skip them altogether – to make the temperature just right for you. Use blackout curtains if outside light filters into the room. They may also reduce outside noise.
- Treat yourself to new bedding. A set of high-thread-count sheets can make your bed feel like one from a fancy hotel. Replace flat, worn pillows with supportive new ones to make you more comfortable.
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping, especially if the lack of shuteye is affecting your ability to function during the day. He or she will talk about the possible causes of your insomnia. For instance, if pain is keeping you up at night, your pain medication may need to be adjusted. In serious cases, if lifestyle changes don’t help, your doctor may prescribe a medicine to help you sleep.
View the original A better night’s sleep for people with cancer article on myOptumHealth.com
- National Cancer Institute. Sleep disorders. Accessed: 03/29/2008
- American Society of Clinical Oncology. Strategies for a better night’s sleep. Accessed: 03/29/2008
- American Cancer Society. Sleep problems. Accessed: 03/30/2008