Many people diagnosed with a serious illness have trouble sleeping at some time. This can be due to general anxiety, worry about treatment or fears for the future. Actually getting to sleep may be the most difficult part. If you are depressed you may also notice that you wake early – often around 3am or 4am – and find it difficult to get back to sleep.
Most sleeping tablets only work for a few hours to help people get off to sleep, so they will not help if you wake in the early hours of the morning. It can feel frustrating when sleep is difficult, but remember that lack of sleep will not cause you any harm.
Some of the suggestions below may help you to get a better night's sleep:
- try to get into a regular routine at bedtime and go to bed at the same time each night
- try having a warm milky drink before bed
- have a warm bath with a few drops of lavender or geranium oil to soothe you, or sprinkle a couple of drops of lavender oil on your pillow
- if you can't sleep, or wake up early, don’t try so hard to sleep; instead, try to relax and rest your body. Rather than lying in bed tossing and turning, you could listen to music or the radio. You could get up and watch TV or read a book. Wait until you feel tired again and then go back to bed
Relaxation tapes or CDs, or recordings of stories, are also very useful for helping you get to sleep. They are stocked in most public libraries or drop in information and support centres.
Your body will still get some benefit from lying quietly in bed, resting, even if you are not actually asleep. Although you may feel as if you have been awake all night, you may well have managed to have several hours of good quality sleep.
Older people and people who have not been physically very active during the day need less sleep at night. If you are taking naps during the day and having problems sleeping at night, it may mean you do not need so much rest. Limit yourself to one rest or sleep each day to see if it helps.
The information in our Fatigue section may be of use to you
Getting help with some of the emotional effects of your illness can improve your sleep pattern.