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Is there a link between sleep and cancer?  Cancer patients commonly suffer from a range of sleep disturbances such as insomnia, respiratory disturbance and other disorders that are linked to sleep deprivation.  Commonly, a sleep disorder may develop over time in cancer patients because of the side effects of treatment or changes to a person’s mental and physical condition that can lead to health issues such as anxiety, pain and even depression.

(photo courtesy flickr.com)

Lauri Leadley, president of Valley Sleep Center, cancer survivor, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1992. Cancer patients commonly experience symptoms of tiredness during the day or the inability to sleep during the night and this is largely related to other medical issues such as changes in a person’s weight and the experience of pain during the night. “Getting quality sleep was essential to my cure,” Lauri said.  It is important to maintain healthy sleep routines so your body can rejuvenate and function.

During her battle with cancer, Lauri found comfort in certain sleep habits that helped improve the quality of her sleep during that difficult time in her life and she continues this practice even today.

8 Ways to Improve Your Sleep

  1. Clear your head.  Having cancer, or any other life-changing illness creates additional worry. Try to develop a habit of writing your thoughts down as a way to release those worries before bedtime. Even if you’re not much of a writer, you can benefit from placing your worries in writing and effectively clearing them out of your head. It will make for a more restful sleep.
  2. Put your body at ease by running a warm bath or shower right before bed as a way to release aches and pains.
  3. Maintaining a consistent sleep and wake schedule is important because it reminds your body that it was time to sleep and it helps prevent you from falling asleep too late at night.
  4. Removing electronics like my cell phones or laptops from the bedroom makes it easier to fall asleep. This allows your body to obtain more sleep hours than it normally would.
  5. Allowing the use of sleep aids may help you to get to sleep during difficult nights but should not be used to mask other sleep disturbances or health conditions that may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.
  6. Treating other medical conditions like heartburn is not only beneficial for your body but it is one less thing to keep you up at night. By paying attention to your body’s aches and pains you will be able to more properly manage them.
  7. Alcohol consumption can create a soreness that is not only painful at times, but it greatly robs you of quality sleep and should be avoided near bedtime.
  8. Exercising three times a week, in the morning, is a great warm-up for the day.  It makes you feel more alert and ready to face the day.  Try to avoid exercising near your bedtime though because it can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

Sleep is a vital process, that if compromised, can be associated with serious health risks. Whether facing an illness like cancer or simply trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, sleep is important to overall health and should be properly managed.

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