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.
Corey Doane is a creative writer and content marketer from San Diego. She writes for clients in a wide range of industries from small business and personal finance, to lifestyle and wellness.