Healthy sleep patterns and habits are crucial components of a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately for those dealing with a cancer diagnosis, getting healthy and consistent sleep doesn’t always come easy, and can even continue into survivorship. In fact, sleep problems such as insomnia affect 70 percent of cancer patients as well as 68 percent of cancer survivors.
Cancer patients experience a variety of physical symptoms as well as psychological symptoms. Chronic pain, which affects 75 percent of cancer patients, is persistent pain that lasts longer than three months. It can be brought on by tumors pressing against nerves and organs or can be caused by nerve changes from treatment or surgery. This pain can be super uncomfortable and can interrupt a normal sleep schedule. There’s also a multitude of symptoms that can be brought on by cancer treatment, causing patients to fall into a cycle of inconsistent and uncomfortable sleep.
In addition to the physical symptoms, many cancer patients and survivors experience mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and stress which can keep them up at night. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 15 to 25 percent of cancer patients experience depression. It’s normal for cancer patients to experience intrusive thoughts and feelings like fear of dying, anxiety around money or life plans and even self-esteem issues. All of these changes both emotionally and physically can really take a toll on one’s mental health. When it comes to sleep, it can be difficult to shut these negative thoughts off, leading to an increase in the development of insomnia.
Aside from cancer patients developing sleep problems, there have also been studies exploring how lack of sleep can lead to cancer development. Those with existing medical conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are actually 15 percent more likely to develop cancer than those without. OSA occurs when the muscles in your throat relax when you sleep, causing a temporary pause in your breathing.
Studies have shown that those with jobs that involve shift work are also more susceptible to developing cancer because of the disruption of the body’s normal sleep-wake schedule. Our bodies have a biological clock that controls how we function when we’re awake and when we’re asleep. If this is disrupted, it can cause irregular sleeping schedules. One study found that night shift workers had an elevated risk of certain cancers because of the disruption of their body’s natural 24-hour rhythm. Ultimately this disruption can cause changes to cancer-related genes and increase your risk.
Healthy sleep hygiene is something we should all strive to have. This involves the sleep habits and patterns that contribute to an overall healthy and most importantly consistent sleep. Whether a cancer patient, survivor or anyone looking to improve their sleep hygiene, the following sleep tips in the visual below can help you develop healthy sleep habits that will minimize your risk of developing sleep problems and cancer.
It seems that more and more of us in modern life are struggling to get one of the most instinctual requirements for health: enough quality sleep. As adults, we need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. We used to manage this, as mother nature set us up with built-in mechanisms to help us fall asleep with the rhythm of the sunrises and sunsets. Over the years, the amount of sleep we are getting has been declining, yet nothing has changed in us physiologically. Mother nature doesn’t suddenly require us to get less sleep, so what’s going on? What’s happened in our recent history to make us so bad at sleeping?
Stress, Screens, and Schedules
We used to sleep routinely with the rise and fall of the sun. The term ‘midnight’ literally refers to the middle of the night, except nowadays it’s more like the beginning of the night for many of us. Thanks to electricity, we don’t have to fall asleep and wake up with the cycle of the sun anymore. We can sleep and wake up whenever we want to, or whenever our schedule allows us to. Many of us have stressful jobs and stressful home lives to contend with. Add the stress on top of our ability to choose when we sleep, along with more and more screen time and we have a recipe for less and less quality sleep.
Screens and Sleep
When we look at the decline in the overall amount that we sleep, and compare that to the increase in screen time over the years, we start to see a correlation. Screens are by no means the sole reason for our decline in sleep time, they do however play an important part in the deterioration of our sleep hygiene.
We mentioned that we used to wake and sleep with the cycle of the sun. This is because our body produces and releases a hormone designed to get us sleepy: melatonin!
Melatonin is released by the pineal gland when it is time to sleep. Our body knows it’s time to sleep thanks to darkness. When the sun sets, and we don’t have any artificial lights in the way, our body releases melatonin and prepares us for rest. When the sun rises, the pineal gland stops releasing melatonin so that we can wake up.
It makes a lot of sense that our bodies would have this built-in mechanism for sleeping at night. As animals, we are adapted to be active during the day. Our vision is improved during the daytime, which used to be much more important for our survival, as we could hunt and gather in the day and rest at night in the dark. So the term ‘midnight’ used to mean the middle of the night! The sun would set at around 8pm and would rise at around 4am, and this was around when we would fall asleep and wake up. But then, we created electricity, and we were able to choose when we experience light and darkness. This introduction of light meant that we were influencing our body’s production and release of melatonin without realizing it. Essentially, our modern world is the reason we’ve become so bad at sleeping.
The Harm Caused by Blue Light
Artificial light stops the production of melatonin, just like natural sunlight, and just like the light emitted from your phone screen, tablet screen, and computers. Even the Kindle which is designed as an alternative to books emits a small amount of blue light (better than screens, but will still have an impact on your melatonin release).
The blue light emitted from our screens essentially tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime, so we don’t produce melatonin, so we don’t get sleepy, and so we end up laying in bed scrolling endlessly through social media on our phones waiting to feel tired enough to fall asleep: it’s not going to happen! Being addicted to our screens can make us bad at sleeping.
We need at least a couple of hours away from screens and bright light for our body to produce enough melatonin to get sleepy. And melatonin doesn’t just help us fall asleep. Research is showing that melatonin could have a role to play in the quality of our sleep too, helping us stay asleep in different sleep stages.
If you want to test this out for yourself,
try letting the sunset tonight without turning any lights on in your living space. You’ll probably notice yourself becoming tired the darker it becomes. A good way of encouraging the production of melatonin is to keep the lights dim in the evenings. Even turning off some of the lights in your home to minimize the light in the evenings can help in the production of melatonin.
Stress and Sleep
Why can’t we sleep when we’re stressed? Because we’re in fight, flight, freeze mode and we need the body to be in rest and digest mode. We experience stress as a survival trait. We need to feel stress in order to be motivated to change our situation to be safer. If we didn’t feel stress, we would blissfully wave at a bear stampeding towards us instead of appropriately, running away, preparing to fight, or freezing out of pure shock.
The body needs to feel a healthy balance of stress and calm so that it knows how to survive in potentially dangerous situations, and so that the body frequently rests and digests. When our sympathetic response is active (fight, flight, freeze), our body stops any jobs that are non-essential, like digesting and resting. When we’re undergoing stress, the body has one object: KEEP ME ALIVE. Save whatever nutrients I currently have by closing off my cells, not letting anything new in but also not letting any precious nutrients out. Little does the body know that it’s going a bit overboard in its stress response… we’re not stressed because of survival challenges, we’re stressed because my boss criticized my work project.
We need to activate our parasympathetic response (rest and digest) multiple times per day to make sure the body stays good at doing the things it needs to do during rest to thrive, like digesting our food and recovering.
It’s, unfortunately for many, not good enough to live with stress and then ‘destress’ on the weekends or on holiday. The body needs to rest and digest multiple times every day. If we don’t leave room for our parasympathetic response, we end up with chronic stress and poor mental health, and it becomes that much more difficult for the body to be good at resting and digesting.
The trouble in the modern day is that we experience stress in a very different way than we used to. Our body can’t differentiate stress from arguing with a loved one vs stress from being chased by a bear. We need to actively tell our body ‘Hey, it’s cool, I’m fine, just an argument with a loved one, we got this.’ Luckily, the body has some pretty nifty built-in mechanisms for encouraging the parasympathetic or sympathetic response.
Practice Deep Breathing
What happens to our breath when we’re stressed? What happens to our breath when we’re relaxed? When we’re stressed, our breath is short, rapid, and shallow. When we’re relaxed, our breath is long, slow, and deep.
Not only does our breath inform us as to how we’re feeling, but we can also use our breath to influence how our nervous system is responding to a situation.
If we have time to intentionally breathe deeply, then the body knows we’re in a safe situation and aren’t being chased by a bear. The action of breathing deeply sends the message to the fear center of the brain that we are safe, and in turn, the parasympathetic response happens.
You can practice deep breathing anywhere at any time. Simply take a deep breath in through the nose, and a long slow breath out through the mouth. You can breathe in and out through the nose if you prefer! Keep the body relaxed as you breathe slow, deep breaths. Doing this multiple times a day will give you the parasympathetic response multiple times a day, essentially training the body to get really good at activating this response and staying there.
Schedule and Sleep
In the modern-day, we all have schedules to contend with, and a lot of the time our schedule directly conflicts with our body’s natural circadian rhythm. So our schedules have a lot to do with why we’re bad at sleeping. The circadian rhythm describes our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. If you have ever worked a shift job, you’ll know the struggle of sleeping and waking at different times every day and often at times that don’t feel natural.
Some of us create our own sleep schedule, staying up late or waking up crazy early, regardless of our body’s natural circadian rhythm. It is much easier for the body to wake and sleep at the same time every day. The body gets into its own routine of when to release certain hormones and start certain functions. By waking and falling asleep at the same time every day, we’re essentially helping the body stick with its natural rhythm. However, not everyone has the luxury to be able to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
Whatever your schedule is, if it’s a sporadic one, a great goal to aim for is getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, even if it’s at different times every day.
The Things to Remember about Sleeping in 2021
The way that society currently functions in a lot of places in the world seems to actively discourage a healthy relationship with sleep. We’re stressed and on our screens a lot these days, especially since the pandemic, with more people working from home and more people fearful of their job security. We set expectations for ourselves that make us bad at sleeping and lead to unhealthy sleep schedules and habits.
The fact of the matter is, in order to thrive, whether that’s at work, at home, as a parent, as a friend, as an individual, we need to get enough quality sleep. For many of us, that might mean examining our current lifestyle and questioning what we value, and what we want to start with in terms of improvements to our sleep routine.
We can’t do it all at once. Once you identify the areas of your sleep that you’d like to improve, pick one small item from your list to focus on until it turns into an automatic habit that you don’t need to think about anymore, then you can focus on the next item on the list. It’s not a habit until it’s automatic.
Gabie Lazareff is a certified health and yoga coach and experienced wellness author. Writing for Somnus Therapy, the online sleep therapy platform, Gabie is educating readers about the importance of sleep not just to survive, but to thrive.
Between your daily responsibilities and your responsibilities as a mother, it can be tough keeping up with it all. Typically, one of the first things mothers sacrifice is their sleep so that they can make enough time to fulfill every need. We understand this lifestyle takes a toll, so let us help you by showing you how to improve your sleep schedule so you can feel as rested and energized as possible.
Schedule a Bedtime and Wake Up Time
Much like how your baby or child has a bedtime, you should also set one for yourself. Keeping a strict bedtime will condition your body to be ready for sleep at that exact time, which will make it easier for you to settle into bed and fall asleep. Similarly, you’ll want to set an alarm and pick an exact wake up time for you to get up on a consistent basis.
On mornings where you have extra time, it may seem like a good idea to try and get some extra sleep. Although tempting, you want to stick to your schedule. Oversleeping will make you feel groggy and just as tired as when you went to bed, whereas having a set wake time will regulate your body to feel energized once you’re up and ready to go.
Fast food may be tempting for its convenience with your busy schedule, but processed junk food is high in sugars and carbohydrates. This will keep your body abuzz when trying to sleep and you’ll likely spend more time twisting and turning throughout the night. On the other hand, you don’t want to go to bed hungry, otherwise your body will be far more concerned with eating than sleeping.
Learn How To Get Back To Sleep
One of the greatest challenges for some mothers is having to wake up in the middle of the night to tend to their babies and then trying to get back to sleep. If you have trouble going back to sleep, the best way to improve your sleep schedule is by making it about relaxation instead of sleeping. If you focus only on sleeping, you’ll become impatient and fixate on what’s making you uncomfortable. Instead, do a quiet activity for a little while until your body begins to feel worn out once more. Your bed will feel incredible once you get back into it. You can also look into natural sleep aids to help if you’re still struggling with sleeping.
Christina Duron is a writer living in the Chicagoland area. Her passion for writing and mental health help create thought provoking and engaging pieces and hopes to use them to empower mothers and women to embrace the beauty of motherhood.
A mother’s touch is known to have magical healing powers for a child.
The connection between a mother and their child is as physical as it is emotional. They are a part of our bodies, we feed them from our bodies, and we comfort them with our bodies. Our bodies are the go-to place for our children when they need to feel safe and secure. So at the end of a long day, mothers often end up feeling over touched or overstimulated.
The sensation of being over touched can have a big impact on our mental health. With our skin being our largest organ, it’s no surprise that a large amount of extra stimulation can cause us to feel frazzled and overworked. We end up feeling irritable, annoyed, anxious or even angry. It can cause insomnia and other sleep disturbances. And feeling over touched can have an effect on our relationships as well because it’s unlikely we’ll want to be intimate at the end of the day, either.
If you are feeling over touched after a constantly caring for and hugging babies, try these five techniques to help reset your nervous system.
1. Take a Time Out
It makes sense that if you’re feeling over touched, a quick fix would be to spend some time not being touched at all. It’s easier said than done for a busy mom, however. The sensation of feeling over touched on a regular basis can build up. Eventually causing worse symptoms, such as anxiety or depression. So it’s important to break that cycle of feeling over touched as regularly as possible.
If you can make this a regular habit, whether daily, weekly or longer, then you can reset your sense of touch and feel refreshed and re-energized. Having the kids crawl all over you may be unavoidable, but at least you’ll be better equipped to handle another round of it.
2. Try Dry Brushing
Now, this one might sound like it makes a little less sense. If you’re already feeling over touched, then wouldn’t brushing your skin just make it worse?
One of the benefits of dry brushing is that it stimulates the lymph system, which is the system that is designed to cleanse our body of toxins and waste. Keeping this system moving throughout our bodies can actually boost our immune systems and keep us healthy. Dry brushing can produce an almost instant energy boost just by helping to circulate our lymph.
Dry brushing the entire body can help to reset the sensation of feeling over touched. It is a controlled and intentional way of stimulating the nervous system and sense of touch. Unlike being tugged at and climbed all over by our kids, we are in control of how our skin is being touched and stimulated.
3. Have a Hot Shower or Bath
Water can do wonders to wash away the feeling of being over touched. A hot shower, especially one with a massaging shower head, is another great way to provide full body stimulation to eliminate that feeling of being pulled and tugged at.
If you’d rather soak in the tub, then add a scoop of Epsom salts to the bath water or try some relaxing bath bombs. The magnesium in the Epsom salts will relax tired muscles and soften the skin. You can even brush your skin during or after the bath, just add a bit of coconut oil, or other essential oil to your brush.
And most importantly, don’t forget to moisturize afterwards. In fact, you should use a good quality moisturizer as often as possible throughout the day. Dry skin is much more sensitive to being touched. Winter can be especially harsh on skin, and if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder, feeling over touched can contribute to other symptoms as well.
4. Lie Under a Weighted Blanket
A weighted blanket, like dry brushing, is another form of intentional touch. It might sound counterproductive to use deep touch pressure therapy (DTP) when we already feel so over touched. But again, this is a different kind of touch that works like a giant reset button on our nervous system.
Think of a fussy baby being swaddled, or an anxious child being hugged tightly. Steady pressure that consumes our entire body at once can make us feel calm and boost our serotonin levels. But as an adult, it’s harder to find a way to create that sense of steady full body pressure.
Weighted blankets are an excellent solution. You can lie under a weighted blanket for anywhere from a few minutes to an entire night, depending on your preference. You are in complete control of removing it, so you don’t need to worry about feeling trapped or suffocated.
Using a weighted blanket can be especially helpful if feeling over touched is causing insomnia or night time anxiety. Over stimulation is a major cause of sleep disturbances. Using a weighted blanket can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night.
The hardest part about using a weighted blanket is trying to choose which one is right for you. There are so many options in weight, filling, covers and sizes so how do you even know where to begin? Here are some tips about how to choose the right weighted blanket.
5. Sensory Deprivation Tank
This is, perhaps, one of the more extreme forms of therapy for feeling over touched, but it’s also a luxurious way to relax and reset. Sensory deprivation tanks, or “float tanks” are popping up everywhere now. While it’s actually an ancient form of healing, they’ve become popular in modern society for their known benefits of relaxation.
In addition to the water, the tank is in complete isolation, which means that it’s dark and you’re cut off from outside sounds and smells. You are basically floating in complete nothingness. By depriving the body of all of it’s senses, you can be in a state of mindfulness and complete relaxation.
As a mother, you’re always ready and prepared to give the hugs and cuddles and be the rock for your children to climb on. Even when you’re feeling over touched, you’d never want to deprive them of that. But you can give better and stronger hugs when you’re feeling relaxed and rested. This is why self-care is such an important task for moms.
If the thought of being touched makes you cringe, it doesn’t make you a bad mother. While you may have to take a few additional steps to reset your senses each day, the feeling won’t last forever. So take care of yourself, mama, and then hug those babies. Because before you know it, you’ll have to chase them down just to get one.
Moms who are sleep deprived are normally less than enthusiastic about celebrating holidays and special events.
You can make them special by getting her a gift that will help beat sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can cause physical and mental problems for mothers, whether it’s caused by a new baby, postpartum depression, anxiety, or just the normal duties of motherhood. These specially selected gift ideas for the sleep deprived mom are sure to make a difference for her.
If a mom in your life is suffering from sleep deprivation, consider one of these gift ideas to help her get a better night’s rest.
A New Mattress
Go big or go home, am I right? Nothing says sleep like a brand new comfortable mattress. But this can be a tough one to give as a gift. It’s a really personal purchase that normally requires a person to try out several different ones before buying.
But times are changing. No longer do you need to go into a showroom and lie down on several different mattresses that all feel the same. You don’t need to spend a fortune or commit to an expensive purchase that you can’t return.
Mattress manufactures have gotten smarter. They’ve created beds that conform to fit us, rather than force us to choose one among many. And instead of putting all their effort into designing an entire line of different mattresses, they’ve combined their efforts into designing one perfect mattress. And because of this – they guarantee that it will be the best mattress you’ve ever had. They’ll even refund you up to a year after your purchase if you’re not happy.
With free shipping and that kind of promise, this mattress tops my list as the #1 perfect gift for the sleep deprived mom.
If you haven’t already heard, weighted blankets are the newest all-natural cure for anxiety and insomnia.
There’s not much to them. They’re blankets filled with beads or pellets and come in a variety of different exteriors such as cotton, flannel, fleece or microfiber. The idea is that using one to sleep will embrace the body in a state of continuous, light pressure, which can stimulate the nervous system and help fight insomnia. The benefits are similar to that of a deep tissue massage.
There are tons of companies selling weighting blankets now, and you can even DIY one. But if you’re looking for gift ideas for the sleep deprived mom, then consider a weighted blanket that gives a little deeper.
Weighting Comfortsis a company that sells weighted blankets made by international refugees. So you can rest assured that when you purchase one of these weighted blankets, you are also contributing to the future and well being of others. What could be a more perfect holiday gift than that?
CBD oil is still a bit of a controversial product, mostly because of it’s association with cannabis. But CBD products from reputable companies are produced from the hemp plant, and not the marijuana plant, so it contains zero amounts of THC – which is the stuff that causes a high. For more information, check out this post from Remedy Review.
Similar to other all-natural essential oils, CBD offers a ton of benefits to those suffering from pain or anxiety. It comes in a variety of different options, from oils to edibles.
Comfortable sleepwear is a mom’s best friend… even if she’s not getting much sleep. One of the best gift ideas for the sleep deprived mom, whether she’s newly postpartum, a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, is something comfortable she can slip into at bedtime.
While this may not be true for all women, many find sleeping with pajama pants on difficult after having a baby. Whether it’s from a c-section scar, stretch marks or extra weight around the middle, our bodies change postpartum. A nightgown is much more comfortable for that reason.
One of my favorite places to shop for clothing, including sleepwear, is on Zulily. You can find pieces of great quality for a good deal and the selection is far greater than what you could find in a crowded mall.
Forget bath bombs. Moms rarely have time for a shower, never mind a bath. Instead, opt for shower steamers this year so that she can still get in all the relaxing spa-like benefits of a shower, without the time consuming restraints of a bath.
Hot showers before bed are a great way to wind down and can help ease symptoms of anxiety and insomnia for a better night’s sleep. Add in some sleep-inducing essential oils and they make a great gift or stocking stuffer.
This list of gift ideas would not be complete without some essential oils. The benefits of essential oils for sleep and relaxation are some that I can personally vouch for. A variety of essential oils is one of the top gift ideas for the sleep deprived mom.
For mothers who are sleep deprived, self care can make a huge difference in their overall mood and quality of life. Granted, it’s not always an easy thing to fit in. With the use of a diffuser, moms can benefit from the healing power of essential oils quickly and effortlessly.
The age old practice of reading in bed is still a good one. Except that now, we scroll on our phones, thinking that it has the same effect. News flash – it’s not even close!
The bright light of the screen plus the negative effects of comparing ourselves to our social media friends means even worse consequences for the already sleep deprived mother.
So buy her a book.An actual paper book with a positive and interesting topic, such as The Sleep Revolution from Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post. Not only will she be able to focus her brain on something useful, but she’ll learn all kinds of brilliant information about sleep and how important it is.
You know what suffers the most due to sleep deprivation? The eyes. The windows to our souls can be bloodshot, dry and puffy when we don’t get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can also cause headaches, migraines and sinus problems.
And how do you treat all those different problems? Heat is great for headaches and sinus problems, but cold is better for redness and puffiness.
White noise is a useful way to drown out an overactive brain. Many new mothers can’t fall asleep because they’re always listening to hear the baby cry. Or perhaps it’s the anxious or intrusive thoughts that are filling her head at night.
A white noise machine is a great tool for helping to reduce stress and drown out background noises so she get better sleep.
This Sleep Therapy Machine from HoMedics is actually a bit more than your average sound machine. It has a patent-pending deep sleep therapy program that uses a specific combination of sounds to keep you sleeping all night long.
Okay, first off, hydration… super important for everyone, especially the sleep deprived. I don’t think I even need to go into detail about drinking enough water, because we all know it’s important.
But THIS water bottle is extra special. It combines the important hydration factor with the healing power of gemstones such as amethyst and quartz. It’s said that immersing gemstones in water can actually increase their potency and charge the water with negative ions to boost serotonin.
Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t – but isn’t this the most beautiful water bottle you’ve ever seen? Of all the gift ideas for the sleep deprived mom, this is one of the most beautiful AND useful.
Tea makes a great gift for the sleep deprived mom. It’s important to choose an herbal, non-caffeinated one, but the varieties are basically endless. A tea that contains Valerian Root will help to induce sleep naturally. You can also go with the ever popular Chamomile tea.
You can find tea and mug gift sets almost everywhere, probably because they make such great gifts. But the trick to making it a special, personalized gift is to choose the perfect mug.
Our skin truly suffers when we don’t get enough sleep. And moms are infamous for not having a proper skin care routine, so a set of skin care products will be a welcome gift for the sleep deprived mom.
The TOHI starter kit comes with a muscle rub, cleanser and lotions for the face and body – but most importantly, it comes with the amazing Night’s Rest lotion. This hand and body lotion contains some of the best essential oils for promoting sleep, as well as ingredients to hydrate and moisturize the skin. It’s one step up from your average skin care routine, and it will encourage her to practice regular self care.
What sleep deprived mom wouldn’t love a spa day this winter? Make it easy on yourself and on her by getting her a SpaFinder gift card. She can choose from thousands of locations, book exactly which treatments she wants and it never, ever expires so she can procrastinate it until the kids are in college – but it will still be waiting for her…
P.S. You can buy one online and print or e-mail it so it’s the perfect last-minute gift!
Pure, undisturbed sleep is one of the best gift ideas for the sleep deprived mom any time of the year. So take the kids out for the day and just let her sleep. It’s amazing what an extra 8 hours of sleep can do to improve our moods and help us function better. For more information on the dangers of sleep deprivation for new moms, check out some of these posts.