Insomnia means having difficulty falling or staying asleep. Many people affected by cancer have trouble sleeping for lots of different reasons.
Insomnia is described as having some or all of the following symptoms:
- difficulty getting to and staying asleep, or waking up too early
- difficulty sleeping despite good conditions for sleep, such as a comfortable bed in a quiet, darkened room
- daytime activities being affected by lack of sleep, for example problems concentrating at work, falling asleep during the day or starting to feel depressed.
Other types of sleep problems
You may be worried that you have insomnia if you only sleep for a few hours every night. However, having short periods of sleep can be perfectly normal and some people may only need 3-5 hours a night. Other people, such as night shift workers or parents with small children, might be sleep deprived. This generally means that they would be able to sleep quite well given the right conditions.
Some people find they wake up several times in the night. They may also feel as though the quality of the sleep they had was poor, for example, if they didn’t experience a deep sleep or do not feel refreshed by the sleep. This could be because of a change in sleep pattern, possibly due to aging or a changed environment.
For most of us, losing one night’s sleep will not have any overall effect other than feeling tired the next day. However, long periods of sleeplessness can lead to confusion, anxiety and depression. If you are worried about sleep problems, talk to your doctor or specialist nurse as they may be able to give you some advice.