Tips on Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep

I want to talk about sleep, or lack of sleep, as it applies to most of us with metastatic breast cancer. As if having a terminal disease, taking tons of different meds, and feeling bad all the time was not enough, our sleep is affected.

Whether we are sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, most of the time, there is no happy medium. So how can we improve our sleep patterns?

Sleep problems and metastatic breast cancer

Let's talk about insomnia first because this is something a lot of us, unfortunately, deal with every night. What causes insomnia? Well, lots of things do, especially cancer medications. Read the side effect risk on any medication bottle, and you will see that insomnia is usually mentioned. Not just medications cause insomnia, though. Many factors include stress, anxiety, poor sleeping environments, pain, and even room temperature. Hello, hot flashes.1

Sound familiar?

If you have advanced breast cancer, you have one or all of these factors affecting your sleep. I am willing to bet that as soon as you lay your head down, your brain goes into overdrive and will not calm down. Thus keeping you awake or waking you up in the middle of the night.

We also can not forget dreaded bathroom trips in the middle of the night that make it almost impossible to go back to sleep after waking up.

Tips that help me before bedtime

Here are some tips to help with sleep and relaxation.

  1. No screens before bed, so shut that television off and turn off the phone at least one hour before you are ready for bed.
  2. Before turning off the phone for the night, I enjoy a relaxing app on my phone. Nothing too stimulating, but a mediation-type app. Some excellent ones are Loona, Calm, Headspace, and even candy crush can be relaxing. Loona is my favorite, with its immersive story and coloring.
  3. Make sure the temperature in the room is cold. According to sleepfoundation.org, 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal room temperature for sleeping.2
  4. Read a good book before bed. That always puts me to sleep.
  5. My favorite is sleep stories, calming stories to lull you to sleep. Get some headphones and find a good app or podcast. Slumber is a very good one, and so is Michelle Sanctuary on the apple podcast. Very relaxing
  6. Please ensure the bedding is comfortable, and the pillows are how you like them, especially if you have pain.
  7. No food or drinks before bed. It can cause acid reflux, and potty breaks no one wants.
  8. I have also tried some relaxing lotions, essential oils, or candles to help me sleep. The lavender scent is very good at relaxing and helping you drift to sleep.

Tips that help me stay asleep

Now let's say you are like me, and the problem is not falling asleep but staying asleep. What can help with that?

  1. DO NOT look at your phone, or even the clock, because it will instantly stimulate the brain and make you even more awake.
  2. No lights. Get a small night light for the room and bathroom, so you do not have to turn on the lights.
  3. Have a glass of water next to the bed, so you do not have to go to the kitchen in the middle of the night but watch how much you drink.
  4. Repetitive sayings, prayers, song lyrics, or even counting backward from 100 can also help you get back to sleep.

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