What can help Mom with her sleep issues after chemotherapy?

2 answers | Last updated: Oct 18, 2016
Dianemm asked...

My mother has stage 4 colon cancer and has had chemo treatment. She has always had a hard time sleeping, but now it's really bad. She has tried melatonin and Ativan, both having the opposite effect - leaving her restless and sleepless. Now she is afraid to try anything. I can't help but think she needs sleep more now than ever. Any Ideas?

Expert Answers

Linda Ackerman, R.N. has clinical experience in oncology, women's health, and medical nursing. She has been practicing for more than 20 years and is a licensed registered nurse in both Florida and Wisconsin. In addition, she serves as a board member of Breast Cancer Recovery and the Wisconsin Cancer Council.

The National Institute of Cancer estimates that 45% of people with cancer experience sleep disturbance. Your mom is not alone.

I think getting adequate rest will be helpful for your mom's health.

I can also understand why she is hesitating in trying additional medications or treatments since the items you listed were not helpful.

She may want to try some of these tips for getting a better night's sleep:

"¢ Go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.

"¢ Make sure the bedroom is quiet, dark, correct temperature for her, and comfortable.(Facilitate comfort through repositioning and support by adding extra pillows)

"¢ Avoid activities such as watching TV, video games etc before trying to sleep.

"¢ Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine 4-6 hours before bedtime.

"¢ Avoid exercise 2-4 hours prior to bedtime.

"¢ Try listening to relaxing music or taking a bath shortly before going to sleep.

"¢ If she is having trouble getting to sleep, don't struggle in bed. If she is unable to get to sleep within 15 minutes, go to another quiet place and lie down until she feels ready to fall asleep, and then return to the bedroom to sleep.

"¢ Avoid eating or drinking in the few hours right before going to bed, however, eating a high protein snack a few hours prior to going to bed may help ( e.g., milk, turkey, or other foods high in tryptophan)

"¢ Make sleep a priority

Although your mom may not be inclined to try additional medications, there are many more medications available for her to discuss with her physician.

To see a listing of some of these medications go to the National Institute of Cancer web site at http://www.cancer.gov/


Community Answers

Gabrieldrm answered...

Here are a couple of home remedies I have used:

Keep a second bed made up and ready in the coolest room she has so she can switch to it when when she is having problems sleeping.

Have her try brushing her teeth when she is sleepless. I really don't know why this works for my family, but it rarely fails us.

Best wishes to your mother and yourself. Gabe.