Community Thoughts on Sleep Troubles
Last updated: October 2020
If you have lung cancer and are having trouble sleeping, know that you are not alone. The inability to get a good night’s sleep is incredibly common for people living with this diagnosis.
To find out more about how the lung cancer community is dealing with sleep issues, we reached out to followers of our Facebook page and asked: Anyone having trouble sleeping?
Nearly 50 community members weighed in, and here is what was shared.
Falling asleep is a challenge every night
It is incredibly common for people with lung cancer to experience trouble sleeping. So much so that nearly everyone who answered the prompt agreed that sleep does not come as easily as it once did – the only difference was the cause. For some folks, the medicines they are on make it hard to sleep. For others, it is anxiety or night sweats that is the issue. In all cases, it is recommended to pay attention to your sleep habits.
One suggestion is to only go to bed once you already feel sleepy. Another suggestion is to create bedtime rituals and habits, such as taking a warm bath before bed, rubbing lavender essential oil on the bottom of your feet, meditating before bed, or listening to sleep stories/meditations. For those who are taking oral steroids, it is suggested that you do not take your medicine after 4 pm.
“Absolutely. It is really bad for me.”
“Oh, yes. That never gets resolved. Chemo, radiation, and immunotherapy disrupt all hormones and damage the kidney and liver. I have had lung cancer for more than 12 years and have not slept well the whole time. Pills do not help. This is what we get when we choose to have treatment. I doze for 2 to 3 hours at a time, any time of day or night. Sleep is foreign to me now.”
“All the time....”
My problem is staying asleep all night
For some, the problem is sleeping through the night. If you find yourself waking up at night, try reading or listening to a guided meditation. Try to avoid watching TV or looking at your cell phone, since the blue light of both will trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, and will make you feel more awake.
“I fall asleep fast. My problem is staying asleep all night. I do usually get a solid 5 hours before I start waking up on and off, so I am thankful for that!”
I have been super anxious
Several community members shared that they cannot sleep due to anxiety, which makes sense. Having a diagnosis like lung cancer is stressful. There are a lot of unknowns to deal with every day. However, once you are in bed for the night, there is no longer anything you can do to solve these problems. Sleep is one of the best ways to fight illness since it allows the body a chance to repair. Of course, knowing this does not make it easy to sleep. Instead, taking action during the day will set you up for a good night of sleep.
Taking a walk or engaging in light exercise can help with anxiety and also give the body feel-good chemicals. Talking with a friend, partner, therapist, or support group can also stop the spinning hamster wheel by letting you voice your concerns and get some feedback. Journaling can also provide relief. One possible solution is to journal about your worries for a set period of time, then destroy your written pages to help shift the energy you feel toward what you write about. In any event, it may take some experimentation to find what works for you to lessen the anxiety and help welcome sleep.
“Sometimes I do, due to not knowing about our condition.”
“If I am having trouble sleeping due to worry, I find that by waking and sitting in early morning light for 30 to 45 minutes helps me. It is especially good for anxiety. Keeping Vitamin D at optimal levels helps too.”
“For the last few months, yes. I have been super anxious. I have been taking Advil PM, but I think my body is used to it now.”
“Quite often. Anxiety takes hold, then the brain starts rolling about will the CAT scan be OK. Did I take my meds? Will my wife be OK after everything is done? Just 1 thought after another. I fall asleep only after reciting my prayer.”
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Thank you to everyone who shared about their troubles with sleep. We appreciate your honesty and you being a part of this community.
Tell us in the comments what has helped you get a good night's rest?
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?