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HEALTH CONCERNS

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The following medical conditions may have a relationship with poor sleep or sleep disorders.

[This page is currently undergoing a major update and will be available for viewing in its entirety in Fall 2017. Thanks for your patience!]

Addiction
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Alcoholism

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Allergies
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Alzheimer’s Diseasease
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Anxiety
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Arthritis
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Asthma
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Attention Deficit Disorder
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Autism
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Autoimmune Disease
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CANCER

Is there a link between poor sleep and cancer?

Whether poor sleep itself can directly contribute to causing cancer is still up for debate, but it’s thought that poor sleep may increase the risk of developing cancer or may aggravate a preexisting cancerous or pre-cancerous condition.

Problematic sleep as a symptom is a common issue for cancer patients. As many as half of all cancer patients struggle with disordered sleep related to their illness and/or treatment. The most common sleep issues for cancer patients include insomnia and abnormal sleep-wake cycles. These issues can be caused by the discomfort the cancer itself brings. Tumors can create pressure on the body’s organs and nerves as well as mess with system functions like digestion, urination, or breathing. The discomfort of sleeping in a hospital room, the side effects of treatments, and generalized anxiety about having and treating cancer are other causes for sleep problems among these patients.

Can cancer treatments lead to disrupted sleep?

Yes. The drugs used in cancer treatments can have a negative impact on sleep quality and quantity. These treatments include anticonvulsants, antidepressants, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, sedatives, steroids, and tranquilizers. The “weaning off” of certain drugs can also impact sleep processes, as well as the side effects of using these treatments over a long time, such as night sweats, generalized pain, anxiety, breathing issues, and GI or urinary discomfort or dysfunction. Sometimes the time of day in which dosing or treatment occurs (chronotherapy) can have an appreciable impact on the side effects or efficacy of cancer treatments as well as affect the patient’s sleep patterns.

What can cancer patients do to improve their sleep?

First and foremost, patients need to tell their cancer healthcare team about any sleep problems they might have developed. Because the sources for sleep disturbances for cancer patients are many, it could take some close examination to figure out root cause. It could be environmental, hormonal, behavioral, or a completely different health problem altogether. For instance, someone with lung cancer might also have sleep apnea. Once the source of the sleep disturbance is discovered, the doctors can then review all the options available for treating the problem.

Other things a cancer patient can do to help themselves through sleep troubles include:

  • Sticking to a sleep routine.
  • Turning your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary, a calming space away from the hectic, troublesome aspects of life where you can easily relax. Remove clocks, unnecessary or intrusive lighting, and all sources of unwanted noise. Use a white noise machine if that helps, or use earplugs, or an eye mask. Keep your bedroom cool and use multiple layers of blankets which can be removed and replaced at will.
  • Exercising regularly at the pace best suited for you.
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
  • Learning and practicing relaxation techniques.
  • Trying therapeutic massage or reflexology during the day.
  • Seeing a therapist if you have issues with depression or anxiety. They can give you tools for dialing down stress responses at times when you need to relax most, like during sleep.
  • Managing any pain issues that you experience as a result of having cancer or receiving treatment.
  • Reviewing the timing of treatments with your healthcare team if you think some of the treatments are causing you to suffer sleep issues like insomnia.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
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Depression
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Diabetes
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Erectile Dysfunction
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Fibromyalgia
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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
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Heart Disease
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High Blood Pressure
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Irritated Bowel Syndrome
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Kidney Disease
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Liver Disease
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Lung Disease
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Menopause
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Migraine
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Mood Disorders
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Neuropathy
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Obesity
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Parkinsonism
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Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
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Preeclampsia
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Pregnancy
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Stroke
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Vascular Disease
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NOTICE TO CONTENT CREATORS

SHC is not accepting pitches, manuscripts, or queries at this time for guest posts, infographics, or other unsolicited content. All guest posts are by invitation only.  Writers’ guidelines for the Vitamin Zzz literary series can be found here.

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