For some of us, getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge at the best of times. During mesothelioma treatment, sleep is even more important, but it may be harder to come by. Read on for information about mesothelioma treatment and sleep – and how you can get more of it.
How Sleep Helps Mesothelioma Treatment
Studies increasingly show links between lack of sleep and diseases, including cancer. Why we need to sleep is still a mystery to scientists, but a growing body of research shows how important sleep is to our health.
Each night, we cycle through different sleep phases, from a light sleep to deep REM sleep where dreams occur. During the deeper phases of sleep, our blood pressure drops and our breathing slows down. This allows the lungs and heart to rest and recharge. Our brains use the downtime of sleep to clean out toxins. Our bodies release hormones that help rebuild tissues.
Sleep is also a time when our brains unconsciously work through problems that might be bothering us. A good night’s sleep is mentally refreshing.
While your immune system battles mesothelioma, one of the best weapons in your arsenal is sleep. Your nightly slumbers give your body time to grow stronger. Sleep can help you deal with the mental stresses that come with mesothelioma treatment. Good sleep may even reduce overall inflammation in the body. One study found that cancer cells grew more slowly in mice that slept well than in mice that were woken up throughout the night.
Ironically, mesothelioma treatment can disrupt your sleep cycle just when you need the most rest.
Mesothelioma Treatment and Insomnia
Even the best sleeper may have trouble sleeping during mesothelioma treatment. The side effects from chemotherapy and other cancer therapies can make it hard to settle down and rest.
Pain from surgery or from the cancer itself can drain your energy and disturb your sleep. Physical discomfort may make it hard for you to find a good position to nod off.
Stress is another common cause of insomnia. Worry about the future, financial issues, and your health could have you tossing and turning rather than peacefully resting.
When your mesothelioma treatment involves a hospital stay, sleep may be even more difficult. Lights are often on at all hours, nurses come in and out, people talk in the hallways, and other patients may be restless during the night.
Tips for Better Sleep During Mesothelioma Treatment
Here are some best practices for nighttime rest that can benefit you during mesothelioma treatment.
- Go to bed at the same time every night. Get up at the same time every morning as well. A regular sleep schedule is one of the tried and true ways to fight insomnia. If your mesothelioma treatment has you off work (or if you are retired), it can be easy to fall into irregular sleep patterns. Keep to a bedtime schedule and set the alarm in the morning to give your body a sleep routine.
- Don’t drink alcohol before bed. What’s more relaxing than an adult beverage before bed? Actually, a lot of things. Alcoholic drinks can make you more wakeful at night. Warm milk is a better nighttime drink. If you want a glass of wine or a beer, have your last drink at least two hours before bedtime.
- Turn off the screens. Give yourself at least an hour before bed without computer, smartphone, TV or even a Kindle. The lights from these devices can keep your body from producing melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that tells your body it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Instead, try reading a book, listening to an audio book or meditation tape, or listening to soothing music as you get ready for bed.
- Turn off the lights. Too much light can keep you up at night and wake you up too early. If your bedroom curtains let the street lights or sunrise peek through, add another layer of window coverings. Wear an eye mask to further block the light.
- Plug in the headphones. Some people find that a very quiet space helps them sleep well. Others find that soothing sounds quiet their minds for sleep. Try listening to meditation instructions or a book on tape. The white noise of ocean waves crashing or nature sounds can also soothe you into slumber. Many apps include a sleep timer so the calming sounds drop off soon after you do.
- Decaffeinate: Maybe you used to be one of those people who could drink a cup of coffee with dinner and still fall asleep. Mesothelioma treatment may have changed that. If you’re having trouble sleeping, drink your last cup of java right after lunch and then stick to decaf for the rest of the day.
- Get help with pain management. If pain is keeping you up at night, ask your doctor to help you find a better pain management regimen. You don’t have to tough it out. Pain management is an important part of your mesothelioma treatment. You have the right to suffer as little as possible.
- Exercise. If you have a lot of energy, exercise for an hour or two a day. If you have just a little energy, get up and move as much as you can. Exercise is a terrific way to help your body feel the physical fatigue it needs to sleep. Plus, exercise circulates your lymph system, which removes toxins from your cells. It’s a win-win.
- Take a pill. Medication is a last resort, but it can be helpful. A full night of sleep after taking a pill is better than tossing and turning with no pill. Start with a natural choice: a melatonin supplement, to augment the natural substance your body uses to wind you down at the end of the day. If that doesn’t work, a sleeping pill may be your best choice. Check with your physician before you add sleep medication of any kind to your mesothelioma treatment plan.
- Take a nap. New research suggests that shorter periods of sleep can be healing as well. Try adding an afternoon nap to your routine to give your body much needed downtime.
Mesothelioma treatment is a tough time in your life. Better sleep will help you cope with the challenges you face. Sleep will improve your quality of life and help you make better decisions about your care.