Sleeping is fundamental to both our physical and mental health. It is when our body finds time to heal and our minds soothe to get ready for the coming day. With the many changes that come with chemotherapy, often sleep loses priority. But here are some of the reasons why sleep should not be overlooked and why it is vital for healing.
1. Helps the Body Recover
Chemotherapy includes a wide variety of heavy medications. Along with your immune system, they seek and destroy cancer cells within your body. This process can take its toll on the body leading to some side effects such as fatigue, pain, and nausea. Sleep allows the muscles to relax and focus on healing the damaged tissues and cells.
2. Boosts your Immune System
Cancer causes inflammation in the body that your immunity system vigorously battles against. However, in the process of killing the cancerous cells, it may also damage the healthy ones. Without the white blood cells to fight the inflammation, you may be at an increased risk of infection. A healthy sleep schedule can help strengthen the immune system weakened by chemotherapy.
Your body creates cytokines during sleep. These small proteins affect the growth and activity of immune system cells and blood cells and call the body to act against any inflammation. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insufficient sleep leads to decreased cytokine production and activity.
3. Helps with Pain Management
Lack of sleep affects the part of our brain that interprets pain making us more sensitive to it. A study carried out by the University of California, Berkeley shows that nearly %80 of the participants had experienced increased pain when sleep deprived. “If it is true that sleep acts like this sort of natural analgesic, that it can reduce pain sensitivity, it should be part of a broad approach to managing chronic pain. With the hope being that it will reduce our dependence on the drugs,” says the lead author UC Berkeley Ph.D. student Adam Krause.
4. Reduces Anxiety and Stress
Coming to terms with the diagnosis, the treatment process, and the sudden change in their way of life can be overwhelming for cancer patients and their loved ones. While keeping the body strong is important it is also crucial to remember the mind’s impact on the body and not neglect its needs.
Sleep is critical for emotional processing. Sleep depravity results in an increase in anger, frustration, and irritability; paving the way for depression and anxiety. Sleeping, however, removes the toxins released in the brain during the day and quite literally, clears your mind. Therefore, adequate sleep can improve your ability to process things clearly and brighten your mood.
But the awareness of the importance of sleep keeps growing in today’s society. Usually, the problem is not understanding why sleep is essential but how to get a good night’s sleep in the first place. This is especially the case with cancer patients as almost half of the patients report sleep disturbances. From the challenging treatment process to the numerous mental and physical side effects, there can be an abundance of reasons why you can’t sleep all that well. While you should contact your oncology team to manage factors regarding your sleep, here are some general tips to improve your quality of sleep:
Tips To Improve Quality of Sleep During Chemotherapy:
1. Have a Regular Sleep Schedule
Circadian Rhythm is your body’s natural physical, mental, and behavioral process throughout a 24-hour cycle. When this cycle changes from day to day the body find it difficult to adapt. To prevent such imbalance you can:
- Be consistent with your sleep time. Try to go to bed and wake up at more or less similar hours.
- Minimize naps. While naps may be tempting to combat fatigue they can contribute to difficulties sleeping at night. Avoid napping leading up to your bedtime.
- Chemo Sleep Caps are a very popular choice to keep your head warm during cold and cool during hot temperatures. This helps negate the sensitivity to temperature that can be caused by chemotherapy.
- Exercise as suggested by your oncology team. A short walk and some stretching can help relieve stress and keep you physically and mentally strong.
- Avoid caffeine 8 to 10 hours before bed. These can disrupt your sleep cycle as well as decrease the quality of sleep.
- Lights out at bedtime. Our Circadian Rhythm is regulated based on light: Darkness means sleep and sunlight means wakefulness. As such, turn off any lights during bedtime and open up the curtains first thing in the morning.
2. Create a Relaxing Environment
Often it is the mind that refuses to go the sleep and not the body. Overthinking, anxiety, and decisions waiting to be made can cause stress and overwork the mind while actually getting nowhere with the problems. In such conditions, you can try to soothe yourself with a warm bath, read a book, remove screens from the room, or do other activities you find relaxing.
3. Try Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt baths are known to replenish the magnesium in your body and support detoxification. Advised 2-3 days after the infusion, Epsom salt baths relax the body and increases the overall quality of life. We highly recommend these.
Related: Gift Ideas for Chemo Patients
4. Work with your Oncology Team
Chemotherapy patients are usually on a number of medications both for chemotherapy and for its side effects. Some of these medications can cause issues such as insomnia, nausea and etc. Informing your oncology team of these side effects can help them find an alternative medicine or find ways to reduce such effects.
As the Irish saying goes, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” It may not sound like much, but sometimes an eight-hour sleep can work wonders on our mindset and our strength. So let us prioritize giving ourselves the time to rejuvenate, and allow the body and mind to recharge.