Sleep problems are quite common for people with lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).
Difficulty sleeping can commence immediately after diagnosis and may continue for many years following completion of treatment. Unhelpful sleeping patterns and insomnia can have significant negative effects on day to day functioning, and over time can drastically impact your quality of life.
Sleeping problems can include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking early and acute and chronic insomnia (three or more months of disrupted sleep). Breaking the cycle can be difficult, although it is possible.
- Anxiety, stress and worry
- Fears about the future
- Steroid treatment
- Change in routine
- Day time napping due to daytime fatigue
- Hot sweats and flushes at night
- Anaemia may cause excessive tiredness
- Pain due to the lymphoma or treatment
Tips and hints to help with sleep problems
Speak to you doctor
- Tell your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping. They may prescribe medication. Sleeping too much can be a sign of anaemia.
- Tell your doctor if you are in pain. They may review your pain relief.
- There are also natural remedies available from the pharmacy. Talk to your doctor before taking these as they can interfere with treatment.
- If feeling anxious or depressed speak to a counsellor, psychologist, or spiritual care worker. This can be arranged by your treating doctor or nurse.
- If taking steroids, take them earlier in the day if possible. Discuss with your doctor before changing the way you take your medications
Things to try
- Talk to family and friends if you feel anxious or depressed
- Have a regular bedtime routine. Make sure your room is not too hot or too cold. Use earplugs or eye masks to help block out noise and light.
- Drink plenty of water in the day but cut back before going to bed. Limit consumption after 6pm
- Avoid alcohol as this can disrupt sleep
- Eat foods rich in tryptophan and magnesium such as nuts and bananas
- Join a yoga class. Talk to your doctor before engaging in this exercise
- Attend meditation and mindfulness groups. They will teach you breathing techniques to help with getting a good night’s sleep
- Do gentle exercise each day
- Try not to nap during the day even if you are feeling fatigued. If you really need a nap limit it to 30 minutes and before 3pm
- Warm bath before bed
- Have a milky drink or herbal tea before bed. Avoid caffeinated drinks for 6 to 8 hours before sleep
- Use essential oils such as lavender. You can put this in the bath or on your pillow
- Avoid TV, computers, tablets, and smartphones before bed.
- Read a book if you are not feeling tired.
- Listen to meditation music. There are many sleep APPs available to help you relax and sleep better
Calm is a free smartphone app which contains over 100 guided meditations for anxiety, stress and sleep management. From beginners to advanced listeners.
Sleep Health Foundation
Australian charity dedicated to creating awareness about sleep problems & providing education on sleeping issues and solutions. Many relevant resources on different sleep problems/disorders and strategies.
Justine Diggens, Psychologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre