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Cancer Patients and Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness is one major problem with patients effected with cancer. It is reported that patients with cancer have three-times the risk of sleeplessness as compared to healthy people.//

"When it came down to night, I couldn't sleep. No matter how many sheep fly over that bed, it's not going to help," says Angel Colon who had a relative suffering from cancer.

Sleep Medicine Specialist Gina Graci, Ph.D., from Northwestern University in Chicago, says sleeplessness in cancer patients can be caused by either the treatment itself or the disease or emotions. "Things that they did before that didn't fragment their sleep really affect them now," tells Graci.

Treatment is not always simple. "One of the treatments, say, for insomnia would be to actually restrict their sleep, and that's not something you want to do," Graci says. "You don't really want to sleep deprive a cancer patient."

So, Graci helps patients make other changes, starting with their daytime routine. She says, "Keep them busy. Schedule things to do. It might be going through bills, helping them get dinner ready." She also says avoid naps and do only neutral activities two hours before bedtime. For many, this may mean no reading. It's mentally stimulating.

Graci says, "If you can get a cancer patient, or any patient, to sleep better, they'll feel better. They'll respond to treatment, perhaps, better."

Graci recommends not using over-the-counter sleep-aids because people often don't use them correctly, and they may become dependent on them. They can also cause oversedation. She says if you are a cancer patient experiencing trouble sleeping, bring it to your doctor's attention and they should be able to also prescribe the right medication.


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