Dealing with Chemotherapy's Side Effects on Sleep

Trouble sleeping is a common complaint among those undergoing chemotherapy. Our friends at Tuck Sleep  contributed to our blog with research an d tips below. Thank you!


Many people struggle with insomnia at some point in their lives. However, people undergoing chemotherapy often have particular struggles with sleep.

Some patients feel sleepy, fatigued, or tired in response to the drugs used for chemotherapy. These people often find themselves taking naps during the day, which can then make it hard to fall asleep at night.

Other times, drugs that are prescribed to counter the effects of chemo can keep you awake. This is particularly true if you are taking steroids, which will cause you feel more awake and alert and make sleep hard to come by.

No matter the reason behind your sleep struggles, there are some things you can do to give yourself the best chance of sleeping well.

How to Get Good Rest:

Even when you’re on chemo, you should be able to get enough sleep. If you’re not sleeping well, you have some options for improving your rest.

  1. Limit your naps to an hour a day. When you’re tired and suffering the side effects of your chemotherapy, it’s easy to want to sleep the day away. However, getting that much sleep during the day is sure to disrupt your rest at night. If you can limit your nap periods, you will be more likely to sleep well at bedtime. Try distracting yourself from your tiredness with a book, a movie, or a good conversation.
  2. Limit your screen time before bed. If you’re feeling poorly, it’s tempting to binge watch TV or scroll aimlessly through Facebook. Doing these things before bed exposes you to blue light, which means your brain produces less melatonin. Since it needs this chemical to fall asleep, your coping could actually be hindering your sleep. To avoid blue light, use Night Shift if you have an iPhone, or download Twilight for Android.

  3. Make sure you have a comfortable bed. There are many new mattress options on the market in the last few years. If you haven’t bought a bed in a while, it might be time to go shopping. You need a bed that supports your spine properly and that feels comfortable to you. Since what feels comfortable might be different during chemo, you may need a new mattress. Also make sure that your pillow is comfortable and that you like the way your sheets, comforter, and blankets feel.

  4. Stretch before bed. Relieve any tension that has built up in your muscles from the stress of cancer and chemo with some easy stretches before bed. Yoga stretches offer some of the best lengthening, strengthening, and pain relief, and cancer patients have relied on them over and over. If you can’t stretch, practice mindfulness instead. It will help your body relax in a similar way, without having to move at all.

Dealing with chemotherapy is bad enough as it is! You shouldn’t have to worry about how well you’re sleeping, too. Use these tips to make sure that your body gets the rest that it needs to heal and promote wellness.


Legs up the wall is one of my favorite yoga poses before bed. It helps to soothe the nervous system, reverse the blood flow in the legs, assist in metabolism lactic acid in the legs, the yogis call it "the fountain of youth pose."  You can breath your way up to eight minutes in this pose. Your legs may get tingly, so take your time coming out of this pose before you stand up again. You can also do this with legs on a chair (pictured below) If you would like to learn gentle and effective yoga techniques to support your evening wind down, attend a Survive & Thrive yoga class or workshop  and stay tuned to our blog. 

Sweet dreams...

Wendy Campbell